/ 9 June 2023

TO BOOST research on bacteriophages, the Phages for Global Health partnered with the University of Santo Tomas-Bacteriophage Ecology, Aquaculture, Therapy and Systematics research group to conduct the very first hands-on bacteriophage workshop in Southeast Asia.

Bacteriophages or phages are viruses that specifically target bacterial organisms and are not harmful to human, animal or plant cells.

They are used and even sold commercially in other countries as alternatives to antibiotics to help address the growing global concern against antimicrobial resistance not just in the medical field but also in the Food industry, Aquaculture, Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine.

The workshop was attended by 36 participants from Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Internationally renowned phage experts Dr. Martha Clokie of the University of Leicester in United Kingdom, Dr. Sunee Korbsrisate of the Mahidol University in Thailand, Dr. Heera Rajandas and Dr. Sivachandran Parimannan of the AIMST University in Malaysia served as facilitators and instructors.

They were joined by Dr. Donna May Papa of the University of Santo Tomas, Dr. Ron Dy of the University of the Philippines Diliman and Dr. Tobi Nagel of the Phages for Global Health.

“The workshop on phage methods included sample collection, isolation, purification and amplification of phages, webbed plate preparation, one-step growth experiments up to DNA extraction,” UST said.

It said that the workshop on bioinformatics included trainings on processing phage sequences, training on installation and troubleshooting of virtualization engines to run Ubuntu and Linux in windows systems. Sample exercises were given on basics of linux and coding language in installation of softwares, pre-processing and quality control of sequence data, de novo assembly of phage sequences, genome annotation and core gene analysis and phylogenetic analysis of processed sample sequences.

The participants later delivered reports based on the results they generated and the learnings they gained during the workshop, the school said.

Apart from capacity-building and teaching phage biology to scientists in Southeast Asia, the Phages for Global Health and the UST BEATS Research group aims to create a consortium of phage biologists in the region through the workshop.