More than simple parasites: The sociobiology of bacteriophages and their bacterial hosts

Patrick R. Secor, Ajai A. Dandekar

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Bacteria harbor viruses called bacteriophages that, like all viruses, coopt the host cellular machinery to replicate. Although this relationship is at first glance parasitic, there are social interactions among and between bacteriophages and their bacterial hosts. These social interactions can take on many forms, including cooperation, altruism, and cheating. Such behaviors among individuals in groups of bacteria have been well described. However, the social nature of some interactions between phages or phages and bacteria is only now becoming clear. We are just beginning to understand how bacteriophages affect the sociobiology of bacteria, and we know even less about social interactions within bacteriophage populations. In this review, we discuss recent developments in our understanding of bacteriophage sociobiology, including how selective pressures influence the outcomes of social interactions between populations of bacteria and bacteriophages. We also explore how tripartite social interactions between bacteria, bacteriophages, and an animal host affect host-microbe interactions. Finally, we argue that understanding the sociobiology of bacteriophages will have implications for the therapeutic use of bacteriophages to treat bacterial infections.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00041-20
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • Bacteria
  • Bacteriophage
  • Cheater
  • Cooperation
  • Sociobiology


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