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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Environmental Microbial & Food Safety Laboratory

Title: Viruses

item Sharma, Manan
item Sharma, Govind

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/16/2011
Publication Date: 4/24/2012
Citation: Sharma, M., Sharma, G. 2012. Viruses. In: Decontamination of Fresh and Minimally Processed Produe. ed. V.M. Gomez-Lopez. Wiley Blackwell. Hoboken, NJ. p. 285-295.

Interpretive Summary: Bacteriophages are viruses which infect and lyse bacterial cells. They are prevalent in nature and foods, and can be used as a “green” and natural antimicrobial to reduce bacterial pathogens on produce. Multi-phage products have been more effective in reducting bacterial pathogens on produce, and their use may also minimize the development of bacteriophage resistance in pathogens. The Food and Drug Administration, along with the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service, has recently granted approval of the use of several bacteriophage products on foods and food contact surfaces. Clinical trials have shown the use of bacteriophages poses a minimal risk to the health of humans. Experimental studies have shown that lytic bacteriophages have been effective in killing bacterial foodborne pathogens on produce surfaces.

Technical Abstract: Lytic bacteriophages, viruses which infect and lyse bacterial cells, can provide a natural method to reduce bacterial pathogens on produce commodities. The use of multi-phage cocktails is most likely to be effective against bacterial pathogens on produce commodities, and minimize the development of phage resistance in target pathogens. Regulatory approval for the use of several lytic phage products on foods and in food processing environments has been granted by various U.S. agencies, which may lead to the more widespread use of bacteriophages in the decontamination of fresh and minimally processed produce. Bacteriophages are present in large numbers in the environment and foods, and recent human clinical trials have shown that they pose a minimal health risk to humans. Bacteriophages specific for Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella spp. and Listeria monocytogenes have been effective in reducing pathogen populations on produce commodities.

Last Modified: 10/20/2017
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