Bovine whey proteins inhibit the interaction of Staphylococcus aureus and bacteriophage K Academic Article uri icon


  • AIMS: To understand the potential use of bacteriophage K to treat bovine Staphylococcus aureus mastitis, we studied the role of whey proteins in the inhibition of the phage-pathogen interaction in vitro. METHODS AND RESULTS: The interaction of bacteriophage K and S. aureus strain Newbould 305 was studied in raw bovine whey and serum. Incubation of S. aureus with phage in whey showed that the bacteria are more resistant to phage lysis when grown in whey and also bovine serum. Whey collected from 23 animals showed a wide variation in the level of phage-binding inhibition. The role of the protein component of milk whey in this inhibition was established; treatment of the whey by heat, proteases and ultrafiltration removed the inhibitory activity. Brief exposure of S. aureus cells to whey, followed by resuspension in broth, also reduced phage binding. Microscopy showed the adhesion of extracellular material to the S. aureus cell surface following exposure to whey. Chromatographic fractionation of the whey demonstrated that the inhibitory proteins were present in the high molecular weight fraction. CONCLUSIONS: The adsorption of whey proteins to the S. aureus cell surface appeared to inhibit phage attachment and thereby hindered lysis. The inhibitory whey proteins are of high molecular weight in their native form and may sterically block phage attachment sites on the cell surface. SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPACT OF THE STUDY: These findings have implications for any future use of phage therapy in the treatment of mastitis, and other diseases, caused by S. aureus. This pathogen is predicted to be much more resistant to phage treatment in vivo than would be expected from in vitro broth culture experiments.

altmetric score

  • 6

author list (cited authors)

  • Gill, J. J., Sabour, P. M., Leslie, K. E., & Griffiths, M. W.

citation count

  • 72

complete list of authors

  • Gill, JJ||Sabour, PM||Leslie, KE||Griffiths, MW

publication date

  • August 2006