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Harnessing Bacteriophages: A Game-Changer in Controlling Multidrug-Resistant E. coli in Raw Milk

In a groundbreaking study published in Pathogens, researchers, including Hoang Minh Duc and myself, explored the antibiotic resistance profiles and the efficacy of bacteriophages in controlling multidrug-resistant Escherichia coli (E. coli) isolated from raw milk in Vietnam. This study is crucial given the rising concern over antibiotic-resistant pathogens in food sources and the potential health risks they pose to both humans and animals.

E. coli, a notorious zoonotic pathogen, can cause severe foodborne illnesses and bovine mastitis. In this study, we found that among 139 E. coli isolates from raw milk, 57 were resistant to at least one antibiotic, and 35 were classified as multidrug-resistant (MDR). This alarming prevalence of antibiotic resistance underscores the urgent need for effective biocontrol methods.

Bacteriophages, viruses that infect and kill specific bacteria, have emerged as a promising solution. They offer a natural, targeted approach to combating bacterial infections without harming beneficial microorganisms. In this study, eight phages were isolated, and one, designated PEM3, showed significant potential. Phage PEM3 effectively reduced the viable counts of the MDR E. coli strain EM148 by at least 2.31 log CFU/mL at both 24°C and 4°C.

The study's findings align with recent research highlighting the increasing interest in bacteriophages as biocontrol agents. For instance, a study in Frontiers in Microbiology emphasized the role of phages in reducing antibiotic-resistant bacteria in food sources, while another in Applied and Environmental Microbiology demonstrated the effectiveness of phages in dairy products. These studies collectively support the viability of phages as a sustainable and safe alternative to traditional antibiotics.

The implications of this research are profound. As the demand for raw milk grows globally, ensuring its safety becomes paramount. Phages like PEM3 could revolutionize the dairy industry by providing a reliable method to control harmful bacteria, thereby protecting public health without relying on chemical preservatives or antibiotics.

In conclusion, the study conducted by Hoang Minh Duc, myself, and our colleagues marks a significant advancement in the fight against antibiotic-resistant pathogens in food. By harnessing the power of bacteriophages, we can move towards a future where our food is safer, and our reliance on antibiotics is diminished. This innovative approach not only addresses a critical public health issue but also paves the way for more sustainable and effective food safety practices.

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