Therapeutic potential of bacteriophages for staphylococcal infections and selected methods for in vitro susceptibility testing of staphylococci

Authors: M. Dvořáčková 1;  F. Růžička 1;  M. Dvořáková Heroldová 1;  L. Vacek 1;  D. Bezděková 2;  M. Benešík 2;  P. Petráš 3;  R. Pantůček 2
Authors‘ workplace: Mikrobiologický ústav Lékařské fakulty Masarykovy univerzity a Fakultní nemocnice u sv. Anny v Brně 1;  Ústav experimentální biologie Přírodovědecké fakulty Masarykovy univerzity, Brno 2;  Národní referenční laboratoř pro stafylokoky SZÚ, Praha 3
Published in: Epidemiol. Mikrobiol. Imunol. 69, 2020, č. 1, s. 10-18
Category: Original Papers


Aim: Staphylococcus aureus strains are the cause of frightening hospital and community infections, especially when they are resistant to antimicrobials, have important pathogenicity factors, or have biofilm production ability. Looking for novel therapeutic options which would be effective against such strains is one of the highest priorities of medicine and medical research.

The study aim was to describe the occurrence of S. aureus strains and proportion of methicillin resistant strains (MRSA) detected in laboratories of the Microbiological Institute, Faculty of Medicine, Masaryk University (FM MU) and St. Anne's University Hospital, Brno in 2011–2018. Selected strains of S. aureus were tested for biofilm production ability and susceptibility to antimicrobials and Stafal®, a phage therapeutic agent. A prerequisite was to develop a simple routine method suitable for phage susceptibility testing of bacteria.

Material and methods: Altogether 867 clinical isolates of S. aureus and 132 strains of other species of the genus Staphylococcus (isolated in 2011–2017) were tested for susceptibility to the phage therapy preparation Stafal® using the double-layer agar method. All strains of S. aureus were tested for biofilm production ability by the modified Christensen method with the use of titration microplates and for susceptibility to antistaphylococcal antibiotics by the disk diffusion test. For 95 S. aureus strains, the outcome of the double-layer agar method (DAM) was compared with that of our newly designed method (ODM) based on optical density decrease of the bacterial suspension.

Results: During the study period, the laboratories of the Faculty of Medicine, Masaryk University (FM MU) and St. Anne's University Hospital, Brno detected 2900 strains of S. aureus per year on average. The proportion of MRSA among S. aureus isolates from blood culture and venous catheters ranged between 8.8–15.2 %.

S. aureus strains recovered from venous catheters and blood culture were confirmed as stronger biofilm producers than those from other clinical specimens. MRSA strains showed higher biofilm production than methicillin susceptible strains (MSSA).

As many as 90.4 % of S. aureus strains tested susceptible to the Stafal® preparation. Even a higher proportion, i.e. 99.0 %, of MRSA strains were Stafal® susceptible. No relationship was found between Stafal® susceptibility and biofilm production ability. Although Stafal® targets primarily S. aureus, some susceptibility (26.5 %) was also found for other staphylococcal species.

A novel simple method designed for routine testing of susceptibility to phage therapy preparations based on optical density decrease was comparably sensitive and reliable as the commonly used double-layer agar method (DAM) and, in addition to being easy and rapid to perform, after prolonged suspension culture and at higher measurement frequency, it has an extra advantage of providing the possibility for monitoring also phage action dynamics.

Conclusions: The proportion of MRSA strains detected in this study is comparable to that reported for the whole Czech Republic, and the biofilm production data are consistent with scientific evidence.

The host range of the Stafal® preparation is relatively wide and covers most strains of S. aureus and some coagulase negative staphylococci. The highest efficiency of Stafal® (99.4 %) was observed against MRSA strains with multiple types of antibiotic resistance.

In vitro testing of 867 strains of S. aureus and 132 other staphylococcal species has shown the phage therapy preparation Stafal® to be a suitable candidate therapeutic option for the treatment of staphylococcal infections, especially in case of failure of conventional antibiotic therapy. Moreover, a simple method for routine phage susceptibility testing of clinical bacterial isolates has been designed, which is an essential tool to be used in phage therapy.


Staphylococcus – Phage therapy – biofilm – MRSA – Stafal®


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