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Old Technology Successfully Reduce Salmonella in Meat Products by 90 Percent

Jun 26, 2016 09:55 AM EDT

Researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno have successfully reduced salmonella in ground pork and ground beef by 90 percent using an old technology utilizing a virus known to infect bacteria.

"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," said Assistant Professor Amilton de Mello, from the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources at the University of Nevada, Reno, in a statement.

The virus, called bacteriophages, is a kind of viruses that are commonly found in nature. The first publication regarding the virus came out in 1915 followed by a second in 1917. Bacteriophages have the ability to harm specific bacterial cells and are harmless to humans, animals and plants. The virus move around from bacterium to bacterium while encased within a protein shells called capsids. They can macroscopically devour bacterial cultures by reducing the turbidity of the bacterial cultures.

To determine the effectiveness of the virus in killing salmonella, de Mello and his team conducted an experiment using meat products infected with four types of salmonella. The salmonella was inoculated on refrigerated meat products and poultry trims. The researchers then introduced bacteriophages in the infected meat products. The viruses invaded the cells of the bacteria and destroyed them, resulting to a 10-fold reduction of salmonella on the final ground meat products.

With their promising results, the researchers are urging the meat industries to adapt the method in order to increase food safety.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, salmonella is estimated to cause one million food borne illnesses in the United States, including 19,000 hospitalization and 380 deaths. The bacteria can cause diarrhea, fever, vomiting and abdominal cramps. Some people can recover from salmonella infection even without treatment. However, the bacteria can be fatal for people who have weak or compromised immune system, especially young children and the elderly.

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