Viruses will be used to kill bacteria, protect consumers
A mixture of six viruses can be safely sprayed on meat and poultry to
combat common bacteria that kill hundreds of people a year, according to the US
Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The mixture of special viruses, called bacteriophages, is designed to be
sprayed on ready-to-eat meat and poultry products just before they are
The preparation targets Listeria monocytogenes, which can cause a serious
infection called listeriosis, primarily in pregnant women, newborns and adults
with weakened immune systems. In the US, an estimated 2,500 persons become
seriously ill with listeriosis each year, according to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention. Of those, 500 die.
The preparation of bacteriophages infects only various strains of the
Listeria bacterium and not human or plant cells, the FDA
The viral preparation is made by Intralytix
. The Baltimore company first
petitioned the FDA in 2002 to allow the viruses to be used as a food
The viruses are grown in a preparation of the very bacteria they kill, and
then purified. The FDA had concerns that the virus preparation potentially could
contain toxic residues associated with the bacteria. However, testing did not
reveal the presence of such residues, which likely wouldn't cause health
problems anyway, the FDA said.
Scientists have long studied bacteriophages as a bacteria-fighting
alternative to antibiotics.
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