Antibiotic resistance is currently one of the driving problems to find other solutions to fight bacteria. In the era of the increasing emergence of multidrug-resistant bacteria and a lack of new effective antibiotics, bacteriophages offer an alternative strategy to antibiotics for poultry, and thus for food safety and public health.
Yet, the doubt remains in the industry of how they should be used and what are the pros and cons.
- Bacteriophages are micro-organisms that are extraordinarily abundantly available, as they can be found in their normal form in the environment. For instance, they have been isolated in soil samples at a density of 108 particles/g. This means that humans, animals and plants are in contact with phages for most of our lives without them causing apparently adverse reactions.
- The antimicrobial action of bacteriophages are very specific. When used in a therapy, they only target that specific pathogenic bacteria and the rest will remain untouched.
- Whether applied to antibiotic resistant bacteria or to susceptible bacteria, the elimination efficacy of bacteriophages is identical.
- Bacteriophages multiply when infecting pathogenic bacteria, consequently increasing their antimicrobial properties.
- Acceptation by part of the society may be an issue, as bacteriophages are associated with dangerous viruses. These viruses, however, are totally specific to these bacteria and for that reason, they are harmless to humans, animals, plants or the environment.
- The usage of bacteriophages requires a detailed study of its biology as well as of its genetic characteristics. The goal of this research should be to assure that in no case are the phages carriers or capable of transmitting virulence factors to other bacteria.
- The specificity of the bacteriophages for their target bacteria is very high, which means that, to make sure that all strains will be eliminated, it is necessary to use a mixture of various phages with a different host range.
- The appearance of resistance against phage-derived antimicrobials might be a theme of concern. In the case of bacteriophages, bacteria can become resistant to these. Using a mixture of different phages minimises the probability of acquiring resistance to those.
Despite the grey area that exists on the knowledge of phages the potential pros make bacteriophages one of the best future tools to fight “superbugs”. Constantly, more research points to the big potential in this sector. For that reason, it is essential to continue contributing necessary data, so authorities and society can understand the real value of their later use
This article earlier appeared in the Poultry world website.
References are available bellow.