Prevention Of Cyanobacterial Bloom Formation Using Cyanophages

Using a virus to battle bacteria

Principal Investigator

Jiyoung Lee, Ohio State University


New research at Ohio State investigates an environmentally friendly way to reduce microcystins in both lake water and water treatment plants.

Ingesting water contaminated with microsystins can cause everything from stomach cramps to liver failure. In August 2014, mycrosystins shut down Toledo’s water supply for more than two days. Microcystins are a type of cyanobacteria produced by harmful algal blooms, also known as blue-green algae.

Jiyoung Lee, an environmental health scientist for Ohio State, believes there may be a solution in cyanophages, which are viruses prevalent in water that infect only their host, cyanobacteria. Cyanophages can add or delete genes from their host. “Cyanophages have been studied in marine water, but not much in lake water,” Lee said. “We need to better understand what kind of cyanophages we have in Ohio lakes, and quantify them.”
The hope is that researchers will discover a way to use cyanophages to both limit cyanobacteria in lake water located near a water intake, and to use them in water treatment plants in place of chemicals such as chlorine, activated carbon and ozone.

The End Result

A naturally derived method to slow down the formation of harmful algal blooms and treat contaminated water.

Full Project Information

Read about the project at the Ohio Sea Grant website.