Help Improve Food Safety Using Bacteriophages
On September 18, 2014, President Obama issued Executive Order 13676, entitled “Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria”. It underscores the pressing need for antibiotic alternatives, as our dependence on them has led to massively increased antibiotic resistance. At the current rate, most modern antibiotics would be obsolete within a few decades. Research on bacteriophages is crucial and will impact millions of people and animals who are at risk of bacterial infection. A bacteriophage is a virus that specifically targets particular bacterial strains.
Biofilm-forming bacteria are a growing threat to public health because of their immunity to disinfectants. Formation of a biofilm allows for extra protection for the bacteria due to the biofilm's extracellular matrix of polymeric substances. Biofilm-forming bacteria are prevalent in the food-processing industry. They are able to evade most sterilizing detergents, leaving people susceptible to infection via cross contamination in food products. This leaves businesses defenseless against dangerous bacteria like Listeria monocytogenes. For example, the ice cream manufacturer Blue Bell Creameries issued massive recalls of their products in 2015 and 2016 due to outbreaks of listeriosis.
Research shows that bacteriophage viruses have the ability to eliminate bacteria such as Listeria and Salmonella as well as break down biofilms. Team Phage stands for bacteriophage, as our research aims to use bacteriophages in a cocktail with other helpful antibacterial agents to target these biofilms and fight further outbreaks of Listeria and Salmonella. A mixture of bacteriophage strains is being tested against the biofilms and optimized for sterilization of food processing equipment. Delivery methods will be tested and a final product of phage and non-phage components will be created that will be applicable to the food-processing industry. The objective is to market the product to industry companies to curtail future losses from bacterial outbreaks.
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