The Science Education Alliance (SEA) Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science, or PHAGES, is a national initiative in the United States, funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and led by Professor Graham Hatfull from the University of Pittsburgh. This project is built around the discovery and analysis of mycobacteriophages in the biodiversity of the United States. For the first time, this research is being done in Qatar at Carnegie Mellon University to discover the possible existence of bacteriophages within the soil and sand of this Gulf State. The aim was to isolate and purify the phages present within the local ecology to be used as subjects of phage related medicinal therapy. Mycobacterium smegmatis (M.smeg) was used as the host bacteria strain in order to identify the presence of its phages within the sand and soil. This host was chosen due to its non pathogenic nature, fast growing ability and for being a universal host. M.Smeg also has physiological similarities with pathogenic species from the same family; M.tuberculosis causes tuberculosis, and M.leprae causes leprosy. Such efforts are intended to allow us to better understand the mechanisms by which to treat such bacterial diseases using phage therapy as opposed to using increasingly ineffective drugs. Although M.smeg failed to act as a host for the isolated phages from local environmental samples, future works to identify the suitability of other bacterial hosts such as Arthrobacter sp. for these phages will be carried out. Furthermore, analysis of the microbial composition of environmental samples will be conducted to identify specific bacteria hosts that exist in Qatar's ecology.


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