12 January - 20 June 2016

Novel methods for tackling listeria

10 April 13

Listeria monocytogenes is a foodborne pathogen associated with severe infections and high mortality, and is one of most prevalent pathogens found in the food supply. Although treatment of listeriosis is feasible with a course of antibiotics, increased resistance of pathogenic listeria strains remains a public health challenge. Therefore, it is critical to reduce listeria contamination both in the food infrastructure and the food itself, and a variety of chemical and physical decontamination strategies are in use today for cleaning surfaces that come into contact with food. However, these methods cannot be used on foodstuffs directly, and the corrosiveness of most of the chemical decontaminants limit their use and effectiveness.  There remains, therefore, an acute need in the food industry to develop an effective and non-toxic approach to eliminate foodborne pathogens that impact equipment/infrastructure.  A team from the USA has evaluated the potential for binding cell lytic enzymes to nanoparticles, in order to create surfaces that would kill listeria directly. In their report, published in Nature, the researchers describe easy routes for the surface incorporation of the listeria bacteriophage endolysin Ply500 bound to three different nanoparticles embedded into polymeric films, and investigate their ability to kill listeria in lettuce. All three options were effective in killing L. innocua (a reduced pathogenic surrogate) at challenges up to 105 CFU/ml both in non-growth sustaining PBS (phosphate buffered saline) as well as under growth conditions on lettuce. This strategy represents a new route toward achieving highly selective and efficient pathogen decontamination and prevention in public infrastructure.

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