1 Department of Systems Biology, Technical University of Denmark2 Infection Microbiology, Department of Systems Biology, Technical University of Denmark3 Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability, Technical University of Denmark4 Bacterial Cell Factories, Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability, Technical University of Denmark5 University of Oxford6 Rigshospitalet7 University of Exeter
Pathogenic life styles can lead to highly specialized interactions with host species, potentially resulting in fitness trade-offs in other ecological contexts. Here we studied how adaptation of the environmentally transmitted bacterial pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, to cystic fibrosis (CF) patients affects its survival in the presence of natural phage (14/1, ΦKZ, PNM and PT7) and protist (Tetrahymena thermophila and Acanthamoebae polyphaga) enemies. We found that most of the bacteria isolated from relatively recently intermittently colonised patients (1-25 months), were innately phage-resistant and highly toxic for protists. In contrast, bacteria isolated from long time chronically infected patients (2-23 years), were less efficient in both resisting phages and killing protists. Moreover, chronic isolates showed reduced killing of wax moth larvae (Galleria mellonella) probably due to weaker in vitro growth and protease expression. These results suggest that P. aeruginosa long-term adaptation to CF-lungs could trade off with its survival in aquatic environmental reservoirs in the presence of microbial enemies, while lowered virulence could reduce pathogen opportunities to infect insect vectors; factors that are both likely to result in poorer environmental transmission. From an applied perspective, phage therapy could be useful against chronic P. aeruginosa lung infections that are often characterized by multidrug resistance: chronic isolates were least resistant to phages and their poor growth will likely slow down the emergence of beneficial resistance mutations.