Episode Summary

Bacteriophages (“phages”), or bacterial viruses, are the most abundant biological entity on the planet, and the microbial world is shaped by these predators and parasites. 

The ability of bacteriophages to specifically target and kill their prey is being explored as an alternate therapy to antibiotics against various bacterial diseases.

Dr. Graham Hatfull is a professor at the University of Pittsburgh who studies Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of tuberculosis, and the phages that infect it.  

Hatfull directs the Science Education Alliance-Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science (SEA-PHAGES) program along with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Hatfull talks about how the SEA-PHAGES program has allowed entering students at more than 100 colleges and universities around the country to discover thousands of new phages, how phages isolated from the program were used to save the life of a patient infected with Mycobacterium, what the prospects are for phage therapy being used as treatment for other diseases, how bacterial resistance to phage infection impacts phage therapy, and how important research experience can be for students.    

microTalk was joined by Dr. Jimmy Ballard when this podcast was recorded at the ASM Microbe 2019 conference in San Francisco, CA.

The microCase for listeners to solve is about Buck Shott, an aging Western movie stunt double who comes down with a potentially fatal infection after filming an action scene for “The Old, the Ancient, and the Geriatric”


  • Karl Klose, Ph.D. (UTSA)
  • Graham Hatfull, Ph.D. (University of Pittsburgh)
  • Jimmy Ballard, Ph.D. (University of Oklahoma)
  • Janakiram Seshu, Ph.D. (UTSA)
  • Mylea Echazarreta (UTSA)

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