Phages can grow in different pH values, who knew?!

By Jessica Bauer

Phage hunting is officially over, which is actually quite sad. We all have now successfully isolated, grown, annotated, and experimented on all types of phages. I don’t know about everyone else but I feel like a real scientist now. After sharing the results of my experiment with everyone at the presentation event, I figured that I would share my results here too.

For my experiment, I tested how different pH values affected the growth of phages. I changed the pH of phage buffer (which usually has a pH of 7.6) to pH values of 3.7, 5.6 and 6.6. This was surprisingly difficult since just a little HCl completely changes the pH of phage buffer. After plating numerous dilutions with the different phage buffers, I determined that my phage, Castle, is actually really resilient to pH change.  I was proud. Castle was able to grow the same in pH values of 5.6, 6.6, and 7.6. In comparison to another experiment done with Altwerkus, Castle actually did better. Altwerkus decreased in titer in the lower pH values but Castle stayed strong and kept his titer. Again, I was so proud of my little phage. Castle even grew in the pH of 3.7 just at a lower titer, which really surprised me since I did not think that he would survive in that acidic of an environment (not that I wanted to kill my phage…that would be cruel). The relevance of my experiment is that if for some reason the pH of soil around the world happened to become more acidic, I could go to sleep at night knowing that Castle and all his ancestors will still be able to survive.

I am really sad that phage hunting is over since I can honestly name it as one of my favorite classes that I have took so far at Hopkins. It has been great learning so many new things and I’ll definitely miss coming into lab every week.

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