Dr. Mohammadali Khan Mirzaei Institute of Virology Helmholtz Zentrum München Neuherberg, Germany

Intestinal Bacterial Phages Linked to Childhood Stunting

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Mohammadali Khan Mirzaei Institute of Virology Helmholtz Zentrum München Neuherberg, Germany

Dr. Khan Mirzaei

Dr. Mohammadali Khan Mirzaei
Institute of Virology
Helmholtz Zentrum München
Neuherberg, Germany 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Can you briefly explain what is meant by a bacteriophage?

Response: Child stunting a severe growth impairment, globally affecting about 1 in 5 of children. The correlation between altered gut microbiota and stunting is already known. In contrast to what we know about the link between altered gut bacteria and stunting, the role of phages was not explored.

Phages are the bacterial viruses that match the number of bacterial cells by a 1:1 ratio in the human gut. They are central to the biogeochemistry of most ecosystems by driving bacterial physiology, diversity, and abundance. Therefore, we expect a significant role for them in the human gut.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: In a multi-instructional collaboration led by Dr. Corinne Maurice, we were able to show that stunted children have distinct gut phages compared to their non-stunted counterparts. In vitro, we saw that isolated phages from healthy could regulate the abundance and composition of bacteria from stunted children and vice versa. In addition, we observed age-specific phage-bacteria interactions in stunting.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Our results still need an in vivo validation as host-associated factors like immune response to phages can strongly impact phage-bacteria interactions in the gut. However, studies similar to ours are providing more and more evidence that phages are an important part of the gut microbiota and they have a potential for re-establishing the homeostasis in disease associated with gut dysbiosis. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Despite the recent studies that have described disease-associated changes of the gut phages, we currently have little more than anecdotal data about phage-bacteria interactions in the human body. We also don’t know the impact of these interactions on human health. Going forward, phage researchers should join forces with clinicians to explore the phage-bacteria interactions in various diseases associated with gut dysbiosis. This will get us closer in understanding the complex phage-hosts interactions in clinical contexts, which is essential to the success of phage-based therapeutics. 

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: Responses: Thank you for your interest on the topic. This work was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (OPP1139814), and the Canada Research Chair Program to C.F.M. J.R. and L.D. are funded by Q18 the EU ERC StG (803077/PHARMS). The authors thank members of the Maurice lab, J. Shapiro, E. Haggard-ljungquist, H.J. Haiser, and H. Foroughi-Asl for their constructive comments.


Mohammadali Khan Mirzaei, Md. Anik Ashfaq Khan, Prakash Ghosh, Zofia E. Taranu, Mariia Taguer, Jinlong Ru, Rajashree Chowdhury, Md. Mamun Kabir, Li Deng, Dinesh Mondal, Corinne F. Maurice. Bacteriophages Isolated from Stunted Children Can Regulate Gut Bacterial Communities in an Age-Specific Manner. Cell Host & Microbe, 2020; 27 (2): 199 DOI: 10.1016/j.chom.2020.01.004 




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Last Updated on February 14, 2020 by Marie Benz MD FAAD