Phage technology can help to fight food poisoning

Recently food poisoning has dominated the world of terror, some big news media reported on how some of the pathogens are unstoppable even in first world countries like the United States of America (USA). In the report given by CDC Salmonella was mentioned as one of the leading causes of food poisoning in the US, making an estimated 1.35 million Americans sick annually, and leading to about 26,500 hospitalizations and 420 deaths. Although chemical washes have been used it's clearly stated by the experts that the wash does not kill every bacteria from the food. There is a need for the world to come with an alternative method to efficiently decontaminate food before consumption.
Phages can be used to decontaminate bacteria in food
Bacteria in food


What is food poisoning?

Food poisoning, sometimes referred to as foodborne illness, is an illness caused by eating food contaminated by Infectious organisms including bacteria, viruses, and parasites or their toxins are the most common causes of food poisoning. According to the American Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC) a large percentage of food poisoning agents are bacteria like Clostridium botulinum, Listeria, Staphylococcus aureus, Vibrio sp., Salmonella, Escherichia coli, and Campylobacter. The severity of the illness largely depends on an organ affected and agent of concern, since some can result in death if a patient is left unattended. Due to the fact that the aforementioned agents of food poisoning are bacteria, phages can be a good candidate to stop them from growing hence stop food poisoning.

Symptoms of food poisoning

Food poisoning symptoms, which can start within hours of eating contaminated food and sometimes take days, often include
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Fever
  • Stomach upset
 Most often, food poisoning is mild and resolves without treatment but in some cases food, it can be life-threatening and will need urgent care.

How can phage be used to stop food poisoning?

Bacteriophages can be applied to the food directly, their stability and efficiency in "cleaning up" the bacteria of the target in food can be outstanding, these particles can prevent the growth of bacteria that cause poisoning. Before applying phage to the food scientists do all the necessary tests to assure that the applied phage will be safe and stable at the conditions that particular food will be kept. Some phages can cause the transfer of Antibiotic resistance Genes from one bacteria to another, Scientists screen for all the genes related to the transfer.

Why phages are a better option at fighting food poisoning?

Bacteriophages offer a number of advantages that traditional methods couldn't afford to offer
  1. Bacteriophages are fresh food-friendly. The most recommended method involves heating or cooling food to kill or inhibit the growth of food poisoning pathogens, these methods may limit the consumption of fresh food like vegetable salads and fruits.
  2. They can multiply to kill the invaders. This phenomenon is also known as auto dosing, once applied phages will keep infecting and multiplying.
  3. Ability to crystalize until the pathogen is encountered. As a virus phage didn't spare some of the extraordinary characters like the ability to crystalize hence increase their duration to the area.
  4. They cause no harm to human beings, plants, and animals (I wrote an article on the possibility of bacteriophage infecting a human cell).
  5. Ability to mutate in response to phage-resistant strains. Some studies reported that phages can mutate much faster compared to bacteria.
  6. Cause no change of taste, texture, or color to the food.
  7. Phages can be used to decontaminate solid surfaces like utensils and tops

Bacteriophages could be employed not just in health care, but also in the food industry. Scientists have been investigating the possibility of utilizing phages in eradicating foodborne pathogens and preventing food poisoning for many years now and hopefully, this technology will be brought to large-scale applications.

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