Tuesday 20 October 2020

Tackling foodborne infections


University of Helsinki researchers have been investigating the possibility of utilising phages to eradicate foodborne pathogens and preventing food poisoning. The researchers have focused on the Yersinia enterocolitica bacterium, by far the most common cause for the food poisioning disease yersiniosis. The disease is usually transmitted through raw or undercooked pork. Another source of infection, although a much rarer one, is milk. Humans can also be infected by kitchenware used in handling contaminated food. Yersiniosis symptoms include fever, severe abdominal pain and diarrhoea, which may persist for up to three weeks. In some cases, yersiniosis may cause arthritis as a secondary disease, persisting potentially several weeks. Yersiniosis occurs all over the world.


The scientists have identified four bacteriophages that infect the Y. enterocolitica bacterium. The most effective of this quartet proved to be the fHe-Yen9-01 phage. It was selected for the next stage of the study where its efficacy in decontaminating food and kitchenware contaminated by bacteria was investigated. Everyday products available in grocery shops, such as raw and grilled pork, as well as milk, were inoculated with Y. enterocolitica. The contaminated food was then subjected to phage treatment, after which the number of both bacteria and phages was monitored for three days. It was found that phage treatment was effective in inhibiting bacterial growth in food, while the number of phages in the food grew, indicating that phages infect bacteria and grow in them also when refrigerated.


See: Jun, J. W. Park, S. C., Wicklund, A. and Skurnik, M. (2018) Bacteriophages reduce Yersinia enterocolitica contamination of food and kitchenware. International Journal of Food Microbiology, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2018.02.007


Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle, Pharmaceutical Microbiology Resources (http://www.pharmamicroresources.com/)

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