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Scientists find defence for deadly pathogen

By Oscar Rousseau , 29-Jun-2016

Researchers have used bacteriophages to destroy salmonella cells
Researchers have used bacteriophages to destroy salmonella cells

Academics at the University of Nevada in the US have reduced salmonella in meat products by up to 90% after research into new pathogen prevention systems. 

Assistant professor Amilton de Mello and a score of meat scientists at the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources at the University of Nevada claim to have reduced salmonella “ten-fold” in minced meat.

“We were able to reduce salmonella by as much as 90% in ground poultry, ground pork and ground beef,” de Mello said during a research presentation at the International American Meat Science Association conference in Texas.

“We’re excited to be able to show such good results. Food safety is an important part of our work and salmonella is one of the most prevalent bacteria in the nation’s food supply.”

Four salmonella strains

In the research, de Mello treated meat products infected with four salmonella strains with something called myoviridae bacteriophages – a virus that can harm bacterial cells but not people.

Researchers found that the bacteriophages invaded the salmonella cells and destroyed them.

“The results are very encouraging and we’re hoping this can be adopted by the meat industry to increase food safety,” said de Mello in a statement.

The University of Nevada operates a high-tech meat science lab where research in food safety, animal welfare and wider agriculture is undertaken. It also owns a Nevada Agriculture Experiment station, which houses a meat processing plant, feedlot facilitates, cattle pens and 650 acres of pastureland.

Salmonella is one of the most common causes of foodborne illness in the US with an estimated 360 deaths per year, according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.