Researchers are harnessing bacteria-eating viruses to create a powerful food decontamination spray

Researchers tested their food-grade antibacterial spray on foods like beef and romaine lettuce. Photo credit: McMaster University

McMaster University researchers have developed a powerful new weapon against bacterial contamination and infection.

They have developed a method to get bacteriophages – harmless viruses that eat bacteria – to join together and form microscopic globules. These beads can be safely applied to food and other materials to rid them of harmful pathogens such as E. coli 0157. Each bead is approximately 20 microns (one 50th of a millimeter) in diameter and loaded with millions of phages.

The McMaster engineering team behind the invention, led by Professors Zeinab Hosseinidoust, Canadian Research Chair in Bacteriophage Bioengineering, and Tohid Didar, Canada Research Chair in Nano-Biomaterials, and PhD student Lei Tian, ​​have developed a spray nothing than the microbeads.

The researchers’ sprayable new super disinfectant is food-safe and highly effective, they describe in an article published today in the influential journal (link will be active upon publication). nature communication.

PhD student and Vanier grantee Shadman Khan worked with Tian to test the antibacterial spray on food products.

“When we spray it on food, we’re basically assembling billions of mini-soldiers to protect our food from bacterial contamination,” says Tian, ​​who led the study as part of his PhD. Research.

The research builds on the same chemical work that Hosseinidoust’s lab previously used to get phages to join together in sufficient quantities to form a gel.

“They snap together like microscopic Lego bricks,” she says. “This organized natural structure makes them much more durable and easier to pack, store and use.”

Before the introduction of penicillin in the 1940s, research into phage disinfectants and therapies held great promise, but interest in developing their potential waned when antibiotics made from penicillin came onto the market. With antimicrobial resistance now eroding the power of existing antibiotics, there is intense new interest in phage research.

When phages — which occur naturally in the body and in the environment — come into contact with target bacteria, they multiply and explosively increase their antimicrobial power as they work.

“It’s a chain reaction that produces a dynamic and sustained response that’s even more overwhelming than antibiotics,” Didar says. “No other antibacterial product – not even bleach – has the special properties of phage.”

Another major benefit of using phages in agriculture and food production is that they can be targeted very specifically to remove harmful strains of bacteria without killing beneficial bacteria that improve the taste, smell and texture of food.

The new phage spray has promising potential for commercial application, the researchers say, especially since phages have already received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for use in food.

The research shows that the sprayable material can eliminate E. coli 0157 in lettuce and meat, which are often the source of disease outbreaks.

The researchers say the same approach can easily be applied against other bacteria that cause foodborne illness, such as salmonella and listeria, alone or in combination. Phage sprays could be used in food processing, packaging and cleaning, and even treating irrigation water and equipment to stop contamination at the source, the researchers say.

The research, conducted under the umbrella of McMaster’s Global Nexus for Pandemics and Biological Threats, combines and expands on previous work by Hosseinidoust’s lab with work done by Didar and other McMaster colleagues to use microscopic sensors and surfaces to detect and monitor to develop defenses against foodborne pathogens.

The paper’s co-authors also include Leon He, Kyle Jackson, Ahmed Saif and Zeqi Wan.

Next, the group plans to test the new material’s promising applications in medicine, where it could be used to disinfect wounds, for example. Medical applications will need more time to prove safe and effective, but a food processing disinfection product could get to market much sooner.

More information:
Self-assembling nanofibrous bacteriophage microgels as sprayable antimicrobials against multidrug-resistant bacteria, nature communication (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-34803-7

Provided by McMaster University

Citation: Researchers Harness Bacteria Eating Viruses to Create Powerful Food Decontamination Spray (2022 December 5) Retrieved December 5, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-12-harness-bacteria-eating-viruses-powerful -food. html

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