Researchers have developed a safe way to apply bacteria-eating viruses to food and other materials
Spotted: Food-borne pathogens like Salmonella, Campylobacter and Escherichia coli (E-coli) sicken an estimated 600 million people globally each year and kill around 420,000. On top of this, foodborne diseases impede socioeconomic development by straining healthcare systems and harming national economies. Now, a team of researchers at Canada’s McMaster University has found a new way to fight food-borne bacteria – with a spray.
The researchers have developed a way to link together harmless viruses (bacteriophages) that eat bacteria to create microscopic beads. The beads can then be safely sprayed onto food and other materials, where the phages will devour harmful bacteria. When the phages come into contact with dangerous bacteria, they multiply rapidly, naturally increasing their antimicrobial power.
The new approach has been found to be more powerful than antibiotics and bleach at killing harmful pathogens, eliminating E. coli 0157 in lettuce and meat, which are common sources of disease outbreaks. The phages can also be directed to destroy only harmful strains of bacteria, without killing the beneficial bacteria that give many foods, such as cheese, their taste, smell, and texture.
Graduate student Lei Tian, who led the study, explained that the sprayable super-disinfectant is both food-safe and highly effective: “When we spray it on food, we basically gather billions of mini-soldiers to protect our food from bacterial contamination”.
Some other innovations preventing infections that Springwise has spotted include the use of nano-robots to fight bacterial infections, and the use of copper surfaces to prevent the spread of illnesses in public spaces.
Written By: Lisa Magloff