How are bacteriophages currently being used to assist mankind?
As I was researching the application of bacteriophages I stumbled across a phage product currently available and approved that uses phages to treat contamination of food products. This food additive known as ‘ListShield’ by Intralytix contains naturally acquired lytic bacteriophages that selectively kill L. monocytogenes bacteria. The Listeria phage P100 in this product may attach to L. monocytogenes bacteria, injecting the phage DNA which is then transcribed and translated by the host. This lytic cycle will cause death of the bacteria, thus minimising bacterial contamination by L. monocytogenes in food products or food preparation equipment. Experimentation also showed the bacteriophage to have no adverse side-effects on animals so it is safe to consume orally, genome sequencing also did not expose any genes corresponding to toxic proteins.
Bacterial contamination of food is a great problem to society as it is hard to detect and may lead to many food borne illness in humans. The bacteria L. monocytogenes may inhabit raw meat, dairy products (especially soft cheese), vegetables/fruit and seafood, causing Listeriosis infection if ingested. Listeriosis is significant to the population, having a fatality rate of 25-30%, causing approximately 500 deaths in the US each year. Symptoms of the infection include fever, muscle aches and diarrhea, leading to infections of the central nervous system. The bacteriophage Listeria phage P100 is the most effective treatment for L. monocytogenes, though other phages or penicillin treatment may also be used. Thus, ListShield with Listeria phage P100 are a practical use of bacteriophages to minimise spread of L. monocytogenes in food manufacturing.
It is definitely interesting to see effective use of bacteriophages integrated into society, who knows you may have consumed ListShield and the Listeria phage P100 in a ready-to-eat food product without even knowing! Successful use of this phage in food safety truly highlights the wide potential and applicability that phages may have in various areas. Let’s hope we find a phage this interesting in our hunt!
To read more about ‘ListShield’ visit: http://www.intralytix.com/Intral_Products_ListShield.htm
You can learn more about the Listeria phage P100 in the article ‘Bacteriophage P100 for control of Listeria monocytogenes in foods: Genome sequence, bioinformatic analyses, oral toxicity study, and application’: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16188359