We start with researchers at The University of Nottingham, UK, looking at viruses to control food poisoning.
The work, funded with a $100,000 grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, could treat and prevent intestinal illnesses in children in developing countries including those caused by Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli.
They hope the viruses, known as bacteriophages and which only affect the target bacteria, could offer an alternative to antibiotics and a new approach for the developing world where illnesses can often be fatal.
The research will look at the effect of bacteriophages in pigs which are a relevant model because of the similarity in their gut bacteria and the way their immune system functions.
They will use the bacteriophages to target Salmonella and other disease-causing bacteria in the pig intestine because they know that this can have an indirect beneficial effect on the normal gut bacteria which can improve immunity and their general health.
If they can prove that these phages are effective in killing and preventing the growth of bugs in the pig gut, this could be translated into a method for improving intestinal health in children and newborn infants in the developing world.
The team will work with the Universities of Liverpool, Washington and Florence and carry out research in Burkina Faso in West Africa and Malawi in Southeast Africa.
At the end of the 18-month project they can bid for a follow-on grant of up to $1m.
A spicy solution
Meanwhile, a research team at Southern Illinois University is looking at applications of the spice turmeric to make food-safe, antibacterial surfaces for food processing, preparation and packaging.
Ruplal Choudhary, a food and bioprocess engineer and associate professor in the Department of Plant, Soil and Agricultural Systems at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, wants to use the curcumin compound in active food packaging.
Working with a team under Victor Rodov from the Agricultural Research Organization at The Volcani Center in Israel they found curcumin was an antimicrobial compound, especially against E. coli.
The work, with a $100,000 feasibility grant from the Bi-national Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD), included resveratrol found in grapes and hydroxytyrosal in olives.
With the aid of $300,000 in support from BARD, the team built nanovesicles for the curcumin compound that adhere to and enclose the compound and bind it to glass and other surfaces.
These nano-coated surfaces, when used in food processing, preparation and storage, naturally kill microbes and prevent spoilage and the nanotreated surface does not flavor the food that comes in contact with it.
The team hopes to patent the nanocoating process and broaden its applications for food safety.
Shining a light on foodborne illness
Purdue University has provided an update on its tool that creates a "fingerprint-like pattern" to identify foodborne pathogens without using reagents and was licensed by Hettich Lab Technology.
The USDA-ARS, National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health provided funding to the Purdue colleges of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine to develop the technology, which uses an optical sensor in the detection and identification of foodborne pathogens.
The device, called the Bacteria Rapid Detection using Optical Scattering Technology (BARDOT) has shown promise in identifying Listeria, Staphylococcus, Salmonella, Vibrio and E. coli.
George Paoli, research microbiologist and lead scientist at the USDA-ARS in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, said ARS has supported the development of the technology through funding and collaboration with Purdue’s Center for Food Safety Engineering.
“The potential applications of BARDOT for bacterial classification and identification are intriguing, particularly for the facile, rapid and low-cost detection of bacterial foodborne pathogens, because foodborne pathogen identification often takes days to complete using conventional microbiological detection methods."
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