Paenibacillus larvae Bacteriophages: Obscure Past, Promising Future

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Microbial Genomics





First page number:


Last page number:



Paenibacillus larvae is a Gram-positive, spore-forming bacterium that is the causative agent of American foulbrood (AFB), the most devastating bacterial disease of the honeybee. P. larvae is antibiotic resistant, complicating treatment efforts. Bacteriophages that target P. larvae are rapidly emerging as a promising treatment. The first P. larvae phages were isolated in the 1950s, but as P. larvae was not antibiotic resistant at the time, interest in them remained scant. Interest in P. larvae phages has grown rapidly since the first P. larvae phage genome was sequenced in 2013. Since then, the number of sequenced P. larvae phage genomes has reached 48 and is set to grow further. All sequenced P. larvae phages encode a conserved N-acetylmuramoyl-l-alanine amidase that is responsible for cleaving the peptidoglycan cell wall of P. larvae . All P. larvae phages also encode either an integrase, excisionase or Cro/CI, indicating that they are temperate. In the last few years, several studies have been published on using P. larvae phages and the P. larvae phage amidase as treatments for AFB. Studies were conducted on infected larvae in vitro and also on hives in the field. The phages have a prophylactic effect, preventing infection, and also a curative effect, helping resolve infection. P. larvae phages have a narrow range, lysing only P. larvae , and are unable to lyse even related Paenibacillus species. P. larvae phages thus appear to be safe to use and effective as treatment for AFB, and interest in them in the coming years will continue to grow.


Paenibacillus larvae; American foulbrood; Honeybee; Bacteriophage; Genomics; Amidase


Pathogenic Microbiology | Virology



UNLV article access

Search your library