Bacteriophage (phage) therapy, the use of a specific virus to kill infecting bacteria, is often cited as an alternative to antibiotic therapy. But phage treatment could also play an important role in bio-security against the foodborne pathogen E. coli O157:H7. Phage can be relatively easily isolated and shown to have activity against bacterial strains of interest under laboratory conditions. However, to be used successfully for treatment the phage must be active in vivo where the bacteria may be attached to host cells. To overcome this potential hurdle we are using a screen to test phage activity in conditions more realistic to the host environment than standard lab media. As part of this work we have been isolating new phage that are active against E. coli O157:H7 strains. We are currently testing these newly isolated phage against different bacterial strains and under a variety conditions looking for characteristics that will make them good candidates for phage therapy. We will then test the activity of promising candidates against E. coli O157:H7 attached to bovine epithelial (EBL) cells. The aim of this work is to put together a panel of around 20 phage that not only have the appropriate standard characteristics for phage therapy but have also been shown to have activity on attached bacterial cells. The longer term aim of this work is to use these ‘in vivo’ active phage as an intervention on cattle colonized with E. coli O157:H7 thereby reducing the potential of this pathogen entering the food chain.

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