Streptococcus thermophilus-infecting phages represent a major problem in the dairy fermentation industry, particularly in relation to thermophilic production systems. Consequently, numerous studies have been performed relating to the biodiversity of such phages in global dairy operations. In the current review, we provide an overview of the genetic and morphological diversity of these phages and highlight the source and extent of genetic mosaicism among phages infecting this species through comparative proteome analysis of the replication and morphogenesis modules of representative phages. The phylogeny of selected phage-encoded receptor binding proteins (RBPs) was assessed, indicating that in certain cases RBP-encoding genes have been acquired separately to the morphogenesis modules, thus highlighting the adaptability of these phages. This review further highlights the significant advances that have been made in defining emergent genetically diverse groups of these phages, while it additionally summarizes remaining knowledge gaps in this research area.
Keywords: cheese; fermentations; food microbiology; lactic acid bacteria; modular exchange; phage–host interactions; phylogenetic; recombination; replication; structure.