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Phage transmission strategies: are phages farming their host?

Extensive coevolution has led to utterly intricate interactions between phages and their bacterial hosts. While both the (short-term) intracellular molecular host-subversion mechanisms during a phage infection cycle and the (long-term) mutational arms race between phages and host cells have traditionally received a lot of attention, there has been an underestimating neglect of (mid-term) transmission strategies by which phages manage to cautiously spread throughout their host population. However, recent findings underscore that phages encode mechanisms to avoid host cell scarcity and promote coexistence with the host, giving the impression that some phages manage to 'farm' their host population to ensure access to host cells for lytic consumption. Given the tremendous impact of phages on bacterial ecology, charting and understanding the complexity of such transmission strategies is of key importance.

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