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Foodborne Pathog Dis. 2008 Apr;5(2):183-91. doi: 10.1089/fpd.2007.0057.

Bacteriophage isolated from feedlot cattle can reduce Escherichia coli O157:H7 populations in ruminant gastrointestinal tracts.

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Food and Feed Safety Research Unit, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, College Station, Texas 77845, USA.


Escherichia coli O157:H7 can live undetected in the gut of food animals and be spread to humans directly and indirectly. Bacteriophages are viruses that prey on bacteria, offering a natural, nonantibiotic method to reduce pathogens from the food supply. Here we show that a cocktail of phages isolated from commercial cattle feces reduced E. coli O157:H7 populations in the gut of experimentally inoculated sheep. A cocktail of phages was used in order to prevent the development of resistance to the phages. In our first in vivo study we found that our cocktail of phages reduced E. coli O157:H7 populations in the feces of sheep (p < 0.05) by 24 hours after phage treatment. Upon necropsy, populations of inoculated E. coli O157:H7 were reduced by phage treatment in both the cecum (p < 0.05) and rectum (p < 0.1). In our second in vivo study, several ratios of phage plaque-forming units (PFU) to E. coli O157:H7 colony-forming units (CFU) were used (0:1, 1:1, 10:1, and 100:1 PFU/CFU) to determine the most efficacious phage dose. A 1:1 ratio of phage to bacteria was found to be more effective (p < 0.05) than either of the higher ratios used (10:1 or 100:1). Ruminal levels of E. coli O157:H7 were not significantly reduced (p > 0.10) in any of the studies due to relatively low inoculated E. coli O157:H7 ruminal populations. Our results demonstrate that phage can be used as a preharvest intervention as part of an integrated pathogen reduction scheme.

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