Phages are viruses that naturally infect specific target bacteria without affecting anything else
Bacteriophages (Greek for “bacteria eaters”) or phages are viruses that naturally infect and replicate within specific target bacteria without affecting other beneficial bacteria, nor human/animal/plant cells or the environment.
Phages are the most abundant microorganisms in our environment, being part of the indigenous microbiota of eukaryotic organisms, including humans. Phages represent part of the natural microbiological flora of water and foods, and are often consumed in high numbers in foods of different origins. Fermented foods, fresh vegetables, and fresh and processed dairy, fish and meat products are a rich source of phages.
The use of lytic phages as a food safety strategy is desirable due to the following advantages:
- Natural alternative to antibiotics / chemical preservatives / sanitizers
- Highly specific towards the pathogen of concern
- Harmless to plants, animals and humans cells
- No activity against other beneficial bacteria in foods (e.g. starter cultures)
- Environmentally friendly
- No effect on food quality (i.e. taste, structure, colour and odour)
- Versatile use along the food chain
HIGHLY SPECIFIC PHAGES FOR USE AS BIOCONTROL AGENTS IN FOOD SAFETY
Bacteriophages may provide “green”, natural, non-toxic, safe, sustainable, economical and effective alternative products for significantly reducing or eliminating contamination of foods and food processing plants with specific pathogenic bacteria, thereby eliminating the risk, or significantly reducing the magnitude and severity of foodborne illness caused by the consumption of contaminated foods.
AZTI is working vigorously on the development of alternative bacteriophage-based products for the biocontrol and biosanitation of foodborne bacterial pathogens in food and food processing plants. Our work is aimed on the pathogens of major concern for the food industry within the European Union, such as Campylobacter and Listeria monocytogenes.