Non-emergency phage requests are important too
A great majority of you have probably seen the multiple tweets from @PhageDirectory calling on the phage community to share phages for individual patients with superbug infections. This seems to be the typical activity for Phage Directory: joining efforts of phage researchers in attempts to save lives hanging by a thread. While this and also sending phage alerts directly to its subscribers may easily be the most important role of Phage Directory, it is not the only one.
As stated in their mission, Phage Directory aims to support phage research, phage therapy and phage use in agriculture, the food industry, and veterinary medicine. My personal experience was that Phage Directory created a community on Twitter which responds as widely and quickly to non-emergency requests as to the cries for help.
A tweet requesting phages for research purposes
For me it all started on June 1st, when I saw a re-tweet of Mya Breitbart’s (@virome_girl) tweet looking for phages infecting Vibrio natrigens. What I found unusual was her remark that she was looking for them for research purposes rather than therapy.
This did not seem to matter to the phage community: the tweet was quickly re-tweeted and commented on with offers of different phages or advice on whom to contact. I then thought to myself: could this work for me as well?
New to the phage field, and not studying pathogens
I only recently moved from studying vitamin B12 production capabilities of Propionibacterium freudenreichii to studying its defence mechanisms, therefore I have no experience in phage studies and no publications to show for it.
In addition, P. freudenreichii is not a pathogen, but rather a probiotic candidate commonly used as secondary starter in Swiss-type cheese production. So far, very little is known about the phages attacking it, or the defence systems it employs to stave them off. But it did not matter that I wasn’t studying a pathogen.
My comment to one of the re-tweets got an almost instant comment from the amazing Professor Steffanie Strathdee (@chngin_the_wrld), followed by a re-tweet from Jessica Sacher (@phagedirectory) as well as an offer to post my request on Phage Directory’s Community page and in Capsid and Tail.
Paulina’s post on the Phage Directory Community Board.
Connecting with researchers who could help
Within a few days, I was in touch with four authors who previously worked with P. freudenreichii phages, including Professors Hatfull (@GHatfull) and Modlin, as well as Dr. Marinelli (@DrLJ_Marinelli) and Dr. Brown.
As a result, I was left with a lot of solid advice on how to work with my host, and a promise of being sent P. freudenreichii phages as soon as possible.
A phantastic community!
All it took was a comment on a tweet, and suddenly I found myself a part of this phantastic community, where I try to re-tweet and like tweets as much as possible, especially if I am unable to help in any other way. With my promised phages arriving soon and me being able to do some solid research, I may even start to feel like I deserve to be here.