Bacteriophages as biocontrol agents

Bacteriophages as biocontrol agents 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.


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4 Responses to Bacteriophages as biocontrol agents

  1. Ed Rybicki says:

    I wondered when this would pop up, after seeing the pic (and following the link) in your Flickr account…B-)
    I really like phages: I think I have made more converts to virology with my phage project for undergraduates (10 weeks of pracs, starting with isolation from dirty water and ending with EM and restriction digests) than I ever did with plant viruses.
    And the hook that gets them in is the concept of using phages for good: mentioning their use against antibiotic resistant bacteria – and lately, to protect food – seems to be irresistible.
    But what I really like is that (a) they’re so easy to work with, (b) they LOOK so cool.
    Pity there’s so little research money for working on them, then!!?

    • AJ Cann says:

      A number of people have made pretty good careers out of phages recently, but from a metagenomics approach rather than from the biology.

      • SP. Ranju says:

        is it that much easy to carry out a work in metagenomics ?
        We should ve good funds and ve good knowledge in bioinformatics part ,
        Am i right

  2. Ed Rybicki says:

    Metagenomics: the new-new shotgun tool of the molecular biologist with money….

    Having said that, it is a remarkably good tool for uncovering diversity (I’m a fan!), and has also – surprisingly – almost completely supplanted the previous shotgun, microarrays.

    However, I think that once the discovery phase is over, one actually has to look at what this stunning phage (and other virus) diversity means, and how it affects other life. Our understanding of how the carbon cycle works in oceanic water has already been completely reworked, thanks to the discovery that phages work over an appreciable fraction of the ocean’s bacteria – what else do they do?

    I’m off to help lay bare the “papillome”!

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