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Biology Articles » Immunobiology » Antimicrobials Target Pathogens On Fruits And Vegetables
A novel food safety treatment tested by Agricultural Research
Service (ARS) scientists could become an asset to the fast-growing
fresh-cut produce industry.
The antimicrobial treatment involves the use of submicroscopic agents
that are unable to reproduce or grow outside bacterial host cells.
The purified viral agents are called bacteriophages, which means
"bacteria eater," and they can wreak havoc on deadly bacteria, such
as E. coli O157:H7, that sicken consumers.
The bacteriophage research is being conducted by microbiologist
Manan Sharma, with the ARS Food Safety Laboratory, in
Beltsville, Md., in collaboration with researchers at Intralytix,
Inc., based in Baltimore, Md.
Interest in bacteriophages is ramping up with the emergence of
antibiotic-resistant organisms. These "phages" are present in the
environment and only attack bacteria; they do not have an adverse
effect on humans and animals.
Sharma tested a group of phages (ECP-100) on refrigerated samples of
fresh-cut cantaloupe. The treatments reduced pathogens on the
samples of fresh-cut cantaloupe by 100-fold in comparison to
Sharma also tested the phages on refrigerated fresh-cut lettuce. The
results indicate that bacteriophage treatments can kill E. coli
O157:H7 on the surface of leafy green commodities with the same
level of efficiency seen in the fresh-cut cantaloupe.
Phages reproduce by latching onto bacteria. The viral DNA is injected
into the bacterial hosts' cells, where it directs the production of
progeny phages. These phages kill bacterial host cells on exit, and
then move on to infect more bacterial cells.
The trials indicated that the phage treatments could be effective in
killing E. coli O157:H7 in produce.
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