Elucidation of the mechanisms of action of Bacteriophage K/nano-emulsion formulations against S. aureus via measurement of particle size and zeta potential

Patricia Perez Esteban, A. Toby A. Jenkins, Tom C. Arnot*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In earlier work we have demonstrated the effect that nano-emulsions have on bacterial growth, and most importantly the enhanced bacteriophage infectivity against Staphylococcus aureus in planktonic culture when phage are carried in nano-emulsions. However, the mechanisms of enhancement of the bacteriophage killing effect are not specifically understood. This work focuses on the investigation of the possible interactions between emulsion droplets and bacterial cells, between emulsion droplets and bacteriophages, and finally interactions between all three components: nano-emulsion droplets, bacteria, and bacteriophages. The first approach consists of simple calculations to determine the spatial distribution of the components, based on measurements of particle size. It was found that nano-emulsion droplets are much more numerous than bacteria or bacteriophage, and due to their size and surface area they must be covering the surface of both cells and bacteriophage particles. Stabilisation of bacteriophages due to electrostatic forces and interaction with nano-emulsion droplets is suspected, since bacteriophages may be protected against inactivation due to 'charge shielding'. Zeta potential was measured for the individual components in the system, and for all of them combined. It was concluded that the presence of nano-emulsions could be reducing electrostatic repulsion between bacterial cells and bacteriophage, both of which are very negatively 'charged'. Moreover, nano-emulsions lead to more favourable interaction between bacteriophages and bacteria, enhancing the anti-microbial or killing effect. These findings are relevant since the physicochemical properties of nano-emulsions (i.e. particle size distribution and zeta potential) are key in determining the efficacy of the formulation against infection in the context of responsive burn wound dressings-which is the main target for this work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-94
Number of pages8
JournalColloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces
Early online date1 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016

Bibliographical note

© 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).


  • Anti-microbial formulations
  • Bacteriophage K
  • Electrostatic interactions
  • Enhanced phage infectivity
  • Nano-emulsions
  • S. aureus infections
  • Wound dressings
  • Zeta potential


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