Open Access

Laboratory investigations on the survival of marine bacteriophages in raw and treated seawater

  • K. Moebus1
Helgoländer Meeresuntersuchungen46:BF02367098


Laboratory investigations were performed to gain insight into the mechanisms which govern the survival of marine bacteriophages in nature. Samples collected in 1988 to 1990 at station “Kabeltonne” near Helgoland were used raw, membrane-filtered (0.15μm), and/or after inverse filtration through 10 μm-mesh gauze to reduce or increase live and dead particles. The development of natural or artificial bacterial populations and the survival of 2 to 10 distinguishable strains of test phage were followed during incubation at 20°C. The results obtained with most test phages point to the predominant role of indigenous bacteria for marine phage inactivation which was generally enhanced by sample managements leading to improved growth of bacteria. The virucidal properties of the samples differed greatly in total strength as well as in the changes taking place during incubation, the latter resulting in conspicuously differing inactivation curves. Generally, phage inactivation was slow during the first 2 to 3 days of incubation, followed by a period of very rapid inactivation which usually coincided with the die-away of colony-forming bacteria. This period lasted either only a few days or until the concentration of test phage was reduced to (near) zero. While the inactivation of most test phage is assumedly caused by proteolytic enzymes released during the die-away of bacteria, the survivability of one test phage (H7/2) was also markedly influenced by the bacteria sensitive to it. Survival rates of the test phages in the laboratory tests were generally of the same order of magnitude as those recently observed with natural phage populations.