'Sugar-glass' film uses viruses to kill harmful bacteria in food

With antibiotic resistance on the rise, bacterial contamination of food is becoming more problematic. Now in a study appearing in ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering, scientists report that they have developed an antibacterial "sugar-glass" coating in which viruses that destroy bacteria are embedded and are kept stable for up to three months. The coating could someday be used in the food packaging and processing industries to help prevent food-borne illnesses and deaths.

Bacteriophages, also known as "phages," are viruses that infect and kill bacteria. Unlike antibiotics, which act like sledgehammers, wiping out all bacteria, phages specifically target single strains of these germs, leaving beneficial microbes unharmed. For example, phages are useful for selectively decontaminating cheese -- a food that relies heavily on the presence of beneficial bacteria for its flavor. Because phages are naturally found on fruits and vegetables and do not affect the odor, taste, safety or appearance of foods, scientists are investigating whether these "bacteria-eaters" could have an expanded role in promoting food safety.

But incorporating phages into food packaging has been challenging. Drying them out so they can be added to various types of films can kill the viruses. Other methods for stabilizing phages are also problematic, requiring special handling or equipment.

Read more at Laboratory Equipment 

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