A promising new method for killing pathogenic bacteria is presented as an interesting alternative to the use of food antibiotics or to classical chemical decontamination in food sector facilities.
A team of researchers from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, has developed a new method able to kill lethal pathogenic bacteria within packaging and containers, including the bacteria that causes listeriosis -a severe type of food poisoning.
And nature is the inspiration for these researchers.
Certain viruses, which are capable of successfully attacking bacteria (and known as bacteriophages), inject their genetic material into healthy bacterial cells quite effectively. Thanks to this, the bacteriophage manages to take a bacterium and transforms it into a small factory that creates more bacteriophages. Near the end of its life cycle, the original bacteriophage generates and releases lytic enzymes, which create holes in the cell walls of the infected bacteria. The manufactured bacteriophages escape through these holes and then infect other healthy bacterial cells.
Nature therefore uses lytic enzymes to pierce bacterial cells, and the team of Jonathan Dordick, Ravi Kane and Linda Schadler has created a way of exploiting the same lytic enzymes to destroy bacteria such as listeriosis, and resistant Staphylococcus aureus Methicillin (a bacterium also known as MRSA).
In order to stabilize the lytic enzymes capable of killing the listeriosis bacteria, the researchers added these enzymes to silica nanoparticles approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), creating an ultra thin film.
This film kills listeriosis bacteria that contact it, even at high concentrations, in a few minutes, and without affecting other bacteria that may be beneficial. When the exposure time reaches 24 hours, the film has already killed all listeriosis bacteria present in concentrations up to 100,000 bacteria per milliliter, a concentration much higher than what is normally present in foods that cause cases of food poisoning.
Kusum Solanki, Naveep Grover, Elena Paskaleva, Lillian Lee, Patrick Downs, and Krunal Mehta have also intervened in the research and development work.