Bacteriophage cocktail significantly reduces Escherichia coli O157:H7 contamination of lettuce and beef, but does not protect against recontamination.
Carter, C.D., Parks, A., Abuladze, T., Li, M., Woolston, J., Magnone, J., Senecal, A., Kropinski, A.M., and Sulakvelidze, A.
Foods contaminated with Escherichia coli O157:H7 cause more than 63,000 foodborne illnesses in the United States every year, resulting in a significant economic impact on medical costs and product liabilities. Efforts to reduce contamination with E. coli O157:H7 have largely focused on washing, application of various antibacterial chemicals, and gamma-irradiation, each of which has practical and environmental drawbacks. A relatively recent, environmentally-friendly approach proposed for eliminating or significantly reducing E. coli O157:H7 contamination of foods is the use of lytic bacteriophages as biocontrol agents. We found that EcoShield™, a commercially available preparation composed of three lytic bacteriophages specific for E. coli O157:H7, significantly (p < 0.05) reduced the levels of the bacterium in experimentally contaminated beef by ≥ 94% and in lettuce by 87% after a five minute contact time. The reduced levels of bacteria were maintained for at least one week at refrigerated temperatures. However, the one-time application of EcoShield™ did not protect the foods from recontamination with E. coli O157:H7. Our results demonstrate that EcoShield™ is effective in significantly reducing contamination of beef and lettuce with E. coli O157:H7, but does not protect against potential later contamination due to, for example, unsanitary handling of the foods post processing.
Escherichia coli (STEC)