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Evaluation of a novel cocktail of six lytic bacteriophages against Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli in broth, milk and meat

Tomat, David, Casabonne, Cecilia, Aquili, Virginia, Balagué, Claudia, Quiberoni, Andrea
Food microbiology 2018 v.76 pp. 434-442
Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli, anti-infective agents, bacteriophages, biological control, detection limit, enteropathogenic Escherichia coli, food matrix, foodborne illness, meat, milk, plate count, temperature, virulent strains
Phages are potentially useful as antimicrobial agents in food, especially cocktails of different phages which may prevent the development of bacterial resistance. Biocontrol assays with a six-phage cocktail, which is lytic against DH5α, an enteropathogenic (EPEC) and two Shiga-toxigenic (STEC) Escherichia coli strains, were performed in Hershey-Mg broth, milk and meat at refrigerated (4 °C), room (24 °C) and abusive (37 °C) temperatures. At 4 °C, cell counts were significantly lower (2.2–2.8 log10 CFU/mL) when E. coli strains (∼109 CFU/mL) were challenged against the phage cocktail (∼109 PFU/mL) in Hershey-Mg broth after 24 h. However, reductions were higher (3.2–3.4 log10 CFU/mL) after a 48 h exposure for all the strains tested. In addition, reduction values reached up to 3.4 log10 CFU/mL (24 °C) and 3.6 log10 CFU/mL (37 °C) in challenge tests after 24 h, though the reductions achieved were slightly lower after 48 h for the four E. coli strains tested. In milk, the cocktail was highly effective since bacterial counts were below the detection limit (<101 CFU/mL) at 4 °C, while the reductions ranged from 2 to 4 log10 CFU/mL at 24 °C after a 24 h exposure. At 37 °C, DH5α was eliminated within 2 h, and an average cell decrease of 4 log10 CFU/mL was observed for the three pathogenic strains tested. When the assays were performed in meat, biocontrol values ranged from 0.5 to 1.0 log10 CFU/mL after 48 h at 4 °C, while a higher cell inactivation was achieved at 24 °C (2.6–4.0 log10 CFU/mL) and 37 °C (3.0–3.8 log10 CFU/mL). Furthermore, higher inactivation values for O157:H7 STEC (1.55 ± 0.35 log10 CFU/mL) at 4 °C were obtained in meat when incubation was extended up to 6 days. As a conclusion, our six-phage cocktail was highly effective at 24 °C and 37 °C, though less effective at 4 °C in both food matrices evaluated. Thus, it might be applied against pathogenic EPEC and STEC strains to prevent foodborne diseases especially when the cold chain is lost.