Saturday, November 3, 2012


Bacteriophage are viruses which can kill bacteria through infecting the latter. Wherever there is a colony of bacteria, phages are likely to be seen acting as a check on their uncontrolled proliferation. Phages inject their genetic material into the bacterial cell and hijack their metabolic system leading to their eventual death of the host. It has been reported that phages were extensively used in the erstwhile Soviet Union against pathogens successfully, as an alternative to antibiotics, though as a therapy it never emerged out side this region. Realizing that Listeria contamination is threatening the food markets in some of the developed countries, attempts to use phages against this deadly pathogen resulted in preparations containing the phage for effectively decontamination of surface areas in many solid foods without affecting the sensory quality of the food treated and posing no safety problem to the consumer. With approvals from safety authorities in many countries, phage technology is likely to emerge as a significant tool to fight food poisoning episodes involving food pathogens in the coming years. Here is a take on this latest development in food processing.     

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has approved Listex P100 as a processing aid against Listeria monocytogenes, making Listex the first phage for product safety approved in Australia and New Zealand. The phage is produced by Dutch company Micreos. According to FSANZ's approval report: * The safety assessment did not identify any public health and safety concerns associated with using Listex P100 to treat food. * It is effective at reducing levels of Listeria monocytogenes on the surface of solid RTE foods evaluated. * There is no appreciable ongoing technological function when it is applied to the surface of various solid RTE foods, therefore it fits into the category of processing aids. This is consistent with international approaches.  * There were no measures that would be more cost effective than Listex P100. "FSANZ's decision marks an important step in the acceptance and appreciation of phage technology," said Mark Offerhaus, CEO of Micreos. "The review process was thorough, transparent and involved all stakeholders; an example of how new - and suitable - technology should be brought to market." Following approvals in the USA, Canada and the Netherlands, Micreos applied for approval of Listex in Australia and New Zealand. Easy to apply, Listex is sprayed onto the surface of food products during processing, killing Listeria without any sensory or other effects.

With many multi drug resistant bacteria emerging during the last few years, world is not seeing any new antibiotics being developed that can fight diseases caused by increasingly virulent and rugged bugs evolving through mutation. As phages occur widely they provide an answer to the prayer by human beings to develop newer technologies against diseases which do not respond to existing antibiotics. Sea water is supposed to be one of the richest sources of phages and it is possible that man may increasingly turn to this source to develop a variety of phage based technologies to fight human and animal diseases in the coming years.


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