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Company receives award for bacteriophage technology

By Ahmed ElAmin , 05-Sep-2006

A Netherlands-based company producing bacteria that kill pathogens has won a Frost & Sullivan award for innovation in food safety.

The award recognises EBI Food Safety's efforts in developing its pioneering bacteriophage technology for use in disinfecting cheeses and meats, Frost & Sullivan said in announcing the award today.

"With phage technology poised to become an industry standard, EBI Food Safety's research and development efforts, as exemplified by its bacteriophage technology, have underlined its standing as a technology pioneer," stated Frost & Sullivan analyst Kasturi Nadkarny.

 

To food pathogens like Listeria, bacteriophages are the viral hit squads of the microscopic world. Bacteriophages are viruses that target bacteria, rather than human, plant or animal cells. For every bacteria, there is a phage that likes to latch on to them, take over their life processes and multiply. The baby phages then burst out to attack other nearby targets, thus killing the host cell.

 

They have the potential to be the next big technological advance in anti-bacterial agents processors can use in ensuring their products do not leave the plant loaded with dangerous pathogens like Listeria, Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli.

 

"We see this award not only as a token for delivering a valuable product, but, perhaps more importantly, for contributing to the development of a new industry," stated EBI Food Safety's chief executive officer, Mark Offerhaus. "It is gratifying to see today's consumers and business community latching on to a concept perfected over billions of years. Thanks to 21st century technology we now stand to benefit from one of nature's own elegant solutions in the fight against dangerous bacteria."

 

In May this year EBI Food Safety said it began commercial production of its first product, Listex P100, a phage preparation that can eliminate pathogens from cheese and meat products.

 

Listex is a natural product free from genetic modification, and is highly effective for controlling Listeria monocytogenes, Nadkarny sated.

 

A wide array of food products are susceptible to contamination by Listeria, and losses owing to such contamination run into the billions every year, Frost & Sullivan stated.

 

The problem of Listeria contamination is especially severe because the bacteria are invisible, and can multiply on refrigerated food.

 

Listex 100 is a natural product, used as a processing aid. It can act upon a broad spectrum of Listeria strains, thereby reducing the chances of contamination. Its use can be easily integrated in a company's hygiene and production operations, Nadkarny stated.

 

"Using its proprietary bacteriophage technology, the company has managed to grow Listeria in high numbers, and concentrate the resulting phages to make a pure product for the food industry," she stated.

 

Listex P100 is active at a temperature up to 45°C (113°F) and a pH range of 4.0 to 9.5. It exhibits a high tolerance for saturated sodium chloride

 

solutions, and is not affected by the atmosphere, she stated.

 

EBI recently established its production center in the Netherlands to support the industrial-scale production of bacteriophages.

 

The company expects to launch several other phage products, including those that target salmonella and campylobacter. The company has delivered the first batches of its Listex P100 to clients across the globe.

 

As a scientific spinoff from research by the US-based National Institutes of Health the company has been developing phage production methods since 2001, when it was formed in the Netherlands. The company is developing its pathogen killers in a joint effort with Nizo, a Dutch food consultancy.

 

Listeria has been implicated in several large food poisoning outbreaks in the US and Europe. Listeria poisoning results in the highest rate of hospitalisation of any foodborne pathogen. About 20 per cent of its victims die, the second highest death rate for food poisioning victims.

 

Listeria has a high resistance to salt, nitrite, dry conditions and acidity. The micro organism's ability to multiply under refrigerated conditions causes major concerns for food processors.

 

Worldwide food and non-food industries spend about €5.6bn on toxic chemicals that are only partially successful in blocking the bacterial scum, according to estimates.