Presentation Title

Shifting the Phage Paradigm

Presenter Information

Adriana EneFollow

Major

Bioinformatics

Anticipated Graduation Year

2022

Access Type

Open Access

Abstract

The name “bacteriophage” literally translates to “devourer of bacteria,” originating from Greek dialect. Bacteriophages, viruses that infect bacteria, significantly shape the evolution and function of bacteria, and therefore that of the entire human microbiome. In the past, viruses such as bacteriophages were seen as enemies of the human body. However, emerging research is shifting our views on the microbial communities that live within us to be seen as crucial and beneficial for superior human health. Phages can eradicate bacterial infections, change bacterial phenotypes to be less virulent, and form protective barriers to prevent infections.

Comments

Shifting the Phage Paradigm

2022

Adriana Ene

Romanian

Class of 2022

Knife oil painting, paint markers, oil painting on canvas


The name “bacteriophage” literally translates to “devourer of bacteria,” originating from Greek dialect.Bacteriophages, viruses that infect bacteria, significantly shape the evolution and function of bacteria, and therefore that of the entire human microbiome. In the past, viruses such as bacteriophages were seen as enemies of the human body. However, emerging research is shifting our views on the microbial communities that live within us to be seen as crucial and beneficial for superior human health. Phages can eradicate bacterial infections, change bacterial phenotypes to be less virulent, and form protective barriers to prevent infections. My artwork aims to represent this optimistic shift in view of bacteriophages and display their positive effect on human health.

The piece, “Shifting the Phage Paradigm”, illustrates the interactions of phages and bacteria within the human microbiome. The large purple phage, located in the foreground of the painting, represents the T4 virus which infects Escherichia coli, a common pathogen of the human body. The juxtaposition of the phage in the painting emphasizes the impact that phages have on their environments and their importance in regulating bacterial populations. Even though phages are some of the smallest viruses known to man, this image represents that what they lack in size, they make up for in impact on the microbial community. This phage has an icosahedron with a perfect geometric structure for its capsid, which is the protein shell of the phage encapsulating its genetic information. The capsid was painted using oil colors and the geometric details were later added on using paint markers. The phage tail tube consists of an intricate blend of blue and purple, symbolizing the different proteins that comprise the tail tube.

Coming out of the phage’s baseplate are its long tail fibers, oriented in space and reaching out to infect the bacteria. The bacteria’s phospholipid layer is depicted in orange and the cytoplasm of the bacteria is shown in green, displaying the distinct layers of the bacterial cell that the phage must penetrate for infection. The bacterium in the background is in the process of being lysed by the phages that infected it, effectively killing the bacterial cell. These phages are going to continue to traverse their surrounding environment, infecting millions of bacterial cells along the way, and significantly impacting the composition of the human microbiome. The phages are a variety of different colors and forms, displaying the diversity of the phages that dominate our world.

In the background of the painting, blue was used to create “explosive” patterns, that exemplify the millions of other bacterial cells that have been lysed by these phages, showing the broad impact that phages have on bacterial infections within the body. The backbones of the DNA strands were created by combing the color grey for one strand the metallic grey for the other. This difference in shine yet similarity in color between the two DNA strands highlights the antiparallel and complementary structure of DNA.

Overall, “Shifting the Phage Paradigm” demonstrates the playful nature of the human microbiome and further embodies current research’s advantageous outlook of bacteriophages. This piece effectively displays that bacteriophages are so much more than something to be feared, but rather something to be celebrated.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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Shifting the Phage Paradigm

The name “bacteriophage” literally translates to “devourer of bacteria,” originating from Greek dialect. Bacteriophages, viruses that infect bacteria, significantly shape the evolution and function of bacteria, and therefore that of the entire human microbiome. In the past, viruses such as bacteriophages were seen as enemies of the human body. However, emerging research is shifting our views on the microbial communities that live within us to be seen as crucial and beneficial for superior human health. Phages can eradicate bacterial infections, change bacterial phenotypes to be less virulent, and form protective barriers to prevent infections.