An old technology—bacteriophages—can dramatically reduce Salmonella bacteria in beef, chicken, turkey, and pork products, according to new research by Amilton de Mello, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Nevada, Reno.
“There are a lot of concerns about Salmonella,” says Dr. de Mello, who is from the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources. He says it’s one of the four major food pathogens worldwide, the others being Listeria, E. coli, and Campylobacter.
Salmonella is one of the most common causes of foodborne sickness in the U.S., linked to an estimated one million illnesses annually, with 19,000 hospitalizations and 380 deaths, according to the CDC. Symptoms of an infection include diarrhea, fever, vomiting, and abdominal cramps. An infection can be fatal in young children and the elderly.
Dr. de Mello turned to bacteriophages, viruses that infect and replicate within bacteria, to add another food safety intervention step to meat processing in addition to temperature controls and organic acids.
“We came up with another hurdle to improve what we have,” he says. “Bacteriophages are found everywhere. They are the most abundant organisms on the planet.”
He says bacteriophages date to the late 1800s, when they were used before antibiotics as a therapy against live bacteria. They harm specific bacterial cells but are safe to humans, animals, and plants, he says, adding that they also add no taste to the meat.
About Lori Valigra
Lori Valigra writes about science, technology, and business for general and specialty news outlets in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, including coverage of the "farm to fork" movement and food safety. She’s been involved in several media startups, and had articles published by The Boston Globe, Reuters, Science magazine, and others. She holds an MS in science journalism from Boston University and a BS in medical writing from University of Pittsburgh. She won numerous journalism fellowships and awards, including the Knight Science Journalism Fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Lori enjoys bicycling, snowshoeing, gardening, and traveling. She lives in the western mountains of Maine. Reach her at email@example.com.