Phage Milagro: a platform for engineering a broad host range virulent phage for Burkholderia. Academic Article uri icon


  • The Burkholderia cepacia complex (Bcc) causes life-threatening respiratory tract infections in persons with cystic fibrosis (CF). In CF patients, end-stage pulmonary disease often requires lung transplantation, and pre-transplant colonization with antibiotic-resistant Burkholderia is predictive of poor post-transplant outcomes. To address this issue, phage therapy has been proposed as a treatment for these infections. However, the majority of characterized Bcc phages are temperate and are therefore difficult to use as therapeutics, and the few obligately lytic phages that have been isolated have limited host ranges. To overcome these limitations, we have produced a virulent, broad-host range derivative of the temperate Burkholderia cenocepacia phage Milagro. Phage Milagro is a 39.1-kb temperate myophage related to phage KL3 and the paradigm coliphage P2. This phage showed a phenotype of spontaneous autoplaquing on lawns of Milagro lysogens, and these autoplaques were found to be produced by virulent mutants of the parental phage Milagro. Mutations associated with virulence were identified as single base changes, insertions or deletions in the phage lysogeny control region that define potential operator sites required for lysogen maintenance. To improve phage host range, the C-terminal domain of the Milagro tail fiber was replaced with the receptor-binding domain of the broad-host range tailocin (high molecular weight bacteriocin) BceTMilo. A spontaneous virulent mutant of this engineered phage, designated Milagro vir gp20:Milo, exhibited an expanded host range over the parental phage and is able to infect multiple Bcc species including B. cenocepacia, Burkholderia multivorans, Burkholderia gladioli, Burkholderia dolosa, and Burkholderia vietnamensis.IMPORTANCEBurkholderia infections are a significant concern in people with CF and other immunocompromising disorders, and are difficult to treat with conventional antibiotics due to their inherent drug resistance. Bacteriophages, or bacterial viruses, are now seen as a potential alternative therapy for these infections, but most of the naturally occurring phages are temperate and have narrow host ranges, which limit their utility as therapeutics. Here we describe the temperate Burkholderia phage Milagro and our efforts to engineer this phage into a potential therapeutic by expanding the phage host range and selecting for phage mutants that are strictly virulent. This approach may be used to generate new therapeutic agents for treating intractable infections in CF patients.

published proceedings

  • J Virol

author list (cited authors)

  • Yao, G., Le, T., Korn, A. M., Peterson, H. N., Liu, M., Gonzalez, C. F., & Gill, J. J.

complete list of authors

  • Yao, Guichun||Le, Tram||Korn, Abby M||Peterson, Hannah N||Liu, Mei||Gonzalez, Carlos F||Gill, Jason J

editor list (cited editors)

  • Lowen, A. C.

publication date

  • November 2023