Bacteriophages represent one of the most abundant biological entities in nature and have long been recognized for their potential use as therapeutic agents. In recent years overprescription of antibiotics and the concomitant development of antibiotic-resistant ‘super-bugs’ have highlighted the need for alternative strategies to combat infectious diseases. Consequently, a lot of phage research in the past two decades was aimed at assessing whether phage can be used to eliminate undesirable bacteria. Traceability is a requirement in modern food production, incorporating every step in the production process, commonly known as the ‘farm to fork’ concept (European Commission White paper on Food Safety, January 2000). Phages are omnipresent and are accidentally, yet regularly, consumed through ingestion of water and food. For this reason they are presumed to be safe as undesirable effects have not been reported. This, together with their specificity, makes them excellent tools for food safety purposes.
The ‘farm to fork’ concept identifies quality assurance steps at which bacterial contamination may occur, and which also represent critical points where phage treatments may be applied. The most frequently encountered food pathogens belong to one of the four dominant genera, Salmonella, enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli, Campylobacter and Listeria, along with less common infections by Clostridium spp., Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus suis and Cronobacter sakazakii. Phages targeting strains of each of these species have been identified and this review discusses the pros and cons of the use of phages as biocontrol, biosanitation and detection agents.
Bacteriophages as biocontrol agents of food pathogens. Curr Opin Biotechnol. Nov 4 2010
Bacteriophages have long been recognized for their potential as biotherapeutic agents. The recent approval for the use of phages of Listeria monocytogenes for food safety purposes has increased the impetus of phage research to uncover phage-mediated applications with activity against other food pathogens. Areas of emerging and growing significance, such as predictive modelling and genomics, have shown their potential and impact on the development of new technologies to combat food pathogens. This review will highlight recent advances in the research of phages that target food pathogens and that promote their use in biosanitation, while it will also discuss its limitations.