Moving from concept to control; use of phages for Campylobacter reduction

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Camplyobacter is a high priority food-born pathogen, as a low number of organisms can cause human illness. Poultry are a major source of Camplyobacter as it routinely colonises the chicken gut, where it can reach high numbers. Without effective on-farm control, there is potential for Camplyobacter to persist throughout the supply chain to contaminate the final product. This project builds on previously funded AgriFutures that seeks to develop an environmentally friendly biological control based on bacteriophages commonly found in commercial broiler farms that infect and kill Camplyobacter.

This project demonstrated that a two-log reduction in Camplyobacter levels was achieved in both onfarm and in-vitro experiments and created a broad understanding of potential phage candidates to target for future commercialisation. This will benefit the entire chicken meat supply chain from breeder flocks to the consumer through exploitation of a naturally occurring predator-prey relationship between bacteriophages (viruses) that infect and kill Camplyobacter. A 2-log reduction in Camplyobacter levels could reduce human infections by 90%.

This project identified phage candidates with commercialisation potential by demonstrating their effectiveness on-farm with low levels (7%) of resistance as well as reducing surface contamination of chicken carcass during processing. Genomic sequencing of these candidate phages revealed no recognisable antibiotic or pathogenicity related genes, confirming their suitability for biocontrol applications. Importantly, this project generated the required data to facilitate regulatory of approval of these phages for biocontrol of Campylobacter in the Australian chicken meat industry.

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