Lytic bacteriophages reduce Escherichia coli O157:H7 on fresh cut lettuce introduced through cross-contamination.
Ferguson, S., Roberts, C., Handy, E., and Sharma, M.
The role of lytic bacteriophages in preventing cross contamination of produce has not been evaluated. A cocktail of three lytic phages specific for E. coli O157:H7 (EcoShield™) or a control (phosphate buffered saline, PBS) was applied to lettuce by either; (1) immersion of lettuce in 500 ml of EcoShield™ 8.3 log PFU/ml or 9.8 log PFU/ml for up to 2 min before inoculation with E. coli O157:H7; (2) spray-application of EcoShield™ (9.3 log PFU/ml) to lettuce after inoculation with E. coli O157:H7 (4.10 CFU/cm2) following exposure to 50 μg/ml chlorine for 30 sec. After immersion studies, lettuce was spot-inoculated with E. coli O157:H7 (2.38 CFU/cm2). Phage-treated, inoculated lettuce pieces were stored at 4°C for and analyzed for E. coli O157:H7 populations for up to 7 d. Immersion of lettuce in 9.8 log PFU/ml EcoShield™ for 2 min significantly (p < 0.05) reduced E. coli O157:H7 populations after 24 h when stored at 4°C compared with controls. Immersion of lettuce in suspensions containing high concentrations of EcoShield™ (9.8 log PFU/ml) resulted in the deposition of high concentrations (7.8 log log PFU/cm2) of bacteriophages on the surface of fresh cut lettuce, potentially contributing to the efficacy of the lytic phages on lettuce. Spraying phages on to inoculated fresh cut lettuce after being washed in hypochlorite solution was significantly more effective in reducing E. coli O157:H7 populations (2.22 log CFU/cm2) on day 0 compared with control treatments (4.10 log CFU/cm2). Both immersion and spray treatments provided protection from E. coli O157:H7 contamination on lettuce, but spray application of lytic bacteriophages to lettuce was more effective in immediately reducing E. coli O157:H7 populations fresh cut lettuce.
Escherichia coli (STEC)