Can phage be used as a bio preservative for fish?

fish preservation
Fish preservation
Bacteriophages fit in the class of natural antimicrobial and their effectiveness in controlling bacterial pathogens in the agro-food industry has led to the development of different phage products already approved by USFDA and USDA. The majority of these products are to be used in farm animals or animal products such as carcasses, meats, and also in agricultural and horticultural products. Treatment with specific phages in the food industry can prevent the decay of products and the spread of bacterial diseases and ultimately promote safe environments in animal and plant food production, processing, and handling. This is an overview of recent work carried out with phages as tools to promote food safety, starting with a general introduction describing the prevalence of foodborne pathogens and bacteriophages and a more detailed discussion on the use of phage therapy to prevent and treat experimentally induced infections of animals against the most common foodborne pathogens, the use of phages as biocontrol agents in foods, and also their use as biosanitizers of food contact surfaces.

Charting the Path to Food Safety

Bacteriophages, viruses specifically infecting bacteria, are harmless to humans, animals, and plants. Since the discovery of phages in 1915, they have been extensively used not only in human and veterinary medicine but also in various agricultural settings. Being obligatory parasites, upon multiplication by taking over host protein machinery, phages can either cause cell lysis to release the newly formed virus particles (lytic pathway) or lead to the integration of the genetic information into the bacterial chromosome without cell death (lysogenic pathway).

From a food safety perspective, strictly lytic phages are possibly one of the most harmless antibacterial approaches available compared to the normal antibiotics that surfers resistance.

Phages offer advantages as biocontrol agents for several reasons: (i) high specificity to target their host determined by bacterial cell wall receptors, leaving untouched the remaining microbiota, a property that favors phages over other antimicrobials that can cause microbiota collateral damage; (ii) self-replication and self-limiting, meaning that low or single dosages will multiply as long as there is still a host threshold present, multiplying their overall antimicrobial impact; (iii) as bacteria develop phage defense mechanisms for their survival, phages continuously adapt to these altered host systems; (iv) low inherent toxicity, since they consist mostly of nucleic acids and proteins; (v) phages are relatively cheap and easy to isolate and propagate but may become time consuming when considering the development of a highly virulent, broad-spectrum, and nontransducing phage; (vi) they can generally withstand food processing environmental stresses (including food physiochemical conditions); (vii) they have proved to have prolonged shelf life. Phages are readily abundant in foods and have been isolated from a wide variety of raw products (e.g., beef, chicken)

Feasible applications of phages along the food chain towards an increased food safety (adapted from Greer)
Feasible applications of phages along the food chain towards an increased food safety (adapted from Greer)

Are there phage products for food preservation?

Several products are already on market to ensure food safety with minimal side effects to the flora and fauna. Phages are a clean label alternative for antibiotic preservation in the food and feed industry. Also, the restriction of antibiotics in animal husbandry, customer perception have led to the use of natural preservatives. The bacteriophage is a natural antimicrobial with a narrow spectrum in food safety and production. Some steps need to be considered while adding bacteriophage as a preservative which includes:


Despite having a number of those products, few to no products were prepared to preserve one of the most perishable food. Fish easily get spoilt hence it needs an immediate solution so that the post-harvest losses can be minimized. The approval of phage products is still a threat to scientists in many parts of the world. Governments are still depending on the old ways of doing things and not believing enough in phage technologies despite the barriers and limitations.

Fish is among the healthiest foods on the planet. It is loaded with important nutrients, such as protein and vitamin D. Fish is also the world's best source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are incredibly important for your body and brain. Fish is one of the best dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. Preserving this food with a safe method will ensure a healthy community.

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