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Biocontrol using Designer Pathogenic Microbes, Mutant Viruses, Nanorobotics and Drugs


Food borne bacteria exist in all forms of foods humans consume on a daily basis. The control of bacterial pathogens present on fresh fruit and vegetables and ready to eat foods are of major concern since these foods do not generally undergo any further processing or cooking that would kill pathogens before consumption [ O’Flaherty, S., Paul Ross, R., Coffey, A. “Bacteriophage and their lysins for elimination of infectious bacteria.” Federation of European Microbiological Societies 2009, 33, 801-819].

T4 Bacteriophage

T4 Bacteriophage. Image: Bacteriophage Microscope

Phages are widely distributed in the environment and represent part of the natural microbiological flora of foods [Guenther, S., Huwyler, et al. “Virulent Bacteriophage for Efficient Biocontrol of Listeria monocytogenes in Ready-To-Eat Foods.” Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 2008, 75 (1), 93-100]. A study used to identify [Salmonella]-specific phages isolated a total of 232 phages from 26 sampling sites which included broiler farms, poultry abattoirs, and wastewater plants. Bacteriophages which target [Escherichia]. coli are commonly present in sewage, hospital waste water, polluted rivers and fecal samples. E. coli phages have been recovered from fresh chicken, pork, ground beef, mushrooms, lettuce and other raw vegetables. [Listeria], the bacteria which causes listeriosis is also found on various retail foods and is ubiquitous in the environment [Walsh, D., et al “Antibiotic resistance among Listeria, including Listeria monocytogenes, in retail foods.” Journal of Applied Microbiology 2001, 90, 517-522].

Bacteria and their bacteriophage are constantly co-evolving. Depending on the phage however, many bacteria are favored in this co-evolutionary arms race (some resistance in certain strains even come without a metabolic cost) [Brussow, H. “Phage therapy: the Escherichia coli experience.” Microbiology 2005, 151, 2133-2140], thus bacterial resistance may still pose to be a problem in the future.

In order for genetically engineered phages to be effective in phage-mediated biocontrol, studies must be tested under conditions which resemble commercial practices. For zoonotic bacteria such as Salmonella, there is need to determine the optimal timing and delivery of bacteriophage in a real-life industry setting. [Atterbury, R.J., et al. “Bacteriophage Therapy to Reduce Salmonella Colonization of Broiler Chickens.” Appl. Environ. Microbiol 2007, 73 (14), 4543-4549] US Food and Drug Administration have recently approved commercial phage preparations to prevent bacterial contamination of livestock, food crops, meat and other foods. The timing of phage application should also be considered with regards to the relative point of slaughter and/or packaging. To have this intervention scaled up for commercial production, cost-effectiveness vs. efficacy in real-life application needs to be assessed. [Hagens, S., Loessner, M.J. “Bacteriophage for Biocontrol of Foodborne Pathogens: Calculations and Considerations.” Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology 2010, 11, 58-68.]

See Also

Bacteriophage T4 Virus – 3D Animation  –  T4 Virus infecting a bacteria.

Bacteriophage Fact sheet

Bacteriophage T4 Genome

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