Phage tail-like particles kill Clostridium difficile and represent an alternative to conventional antibiotics

William Sangster, John P. Hegarty, David B. Stewart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background Current Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) antibiotic regimens have become increasingly ineffective at achieving cure and preventing recurrence. A recently developed alternative to conventional antibiotics are phage tail-like particles (PTLPs), which are proteins that are morphologically similar to bacteriophages and are produced by C difficile. This study examines the in vitro killing spectrum of a previously unreported PTLP isolated from a clinical isolate of C difficile.

Methods Using patient-derived samples from an institutional review board-approved C difficile tissue bank, a ribotype 078 C difficile isolate was anaerobically incubated on blood agar plates that were preswabbed with norfloxacin to induce the production of PTLPs. Concentrated PTLP populations were confirmed using transmission electron microscopy. Using a standard lawn spot approach, bactericidal activity was assessed as indicated by a clearing within the bacterial lawn. The PTLP genomic cluster was also fully sequenced and open reading frames were annotated according to predicted function.

Results PTLPs were assessed using 64 patient-derived C difficile isolates of varying ribotypes. PTLPs demonstrated complete bactericidal activity in 21 of 25 ribotype 027 isolates with partial activity in 2 of the 25. Complete bactericidal activity was not demonstrated against any other ribotype or non-difficile bacteria, suggesting a species and ribotype specificity. Functional genes, which may be necessary for killing, were identified within the PTLP genetic locus.

Conclusion PTLPs demonstrate capability in eradicating C difficile in vitro, and with further development, may represent an organism-specific, microbiome-sparing therapy for CDI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)96-103
Number of pages8
JournalSurgery (United States)
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery


Dive into the research topics of 'Phage tail-like particles kill Clostridium difficile and represent an alternative to conventional antibiotics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this