Spraying Billions of Virus-Filled Microbeads on Food Can Save us from Food Poisoning

By: | December 12th, 2022

Image Credit McMaster University

Food Poisoning is often taken too lightly. But as per an estimate, every year, about 48 million people get sick from foodborne diseases, nearly 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die.

Our food passes through several steps from the farm or fishery to the dining table. The food can get contaminated at any point along the chain—during production, processing, distribution, or preparation.

Now researchers from Canada’s McMaster University have developed a very simple way to eradicate all the harmful bacteria present in food. They have developed a food decontamination spray using nothing but microbeads. 

The spray consists of microgel beads of viruses known as bacteriophages (viruses that kill bacteria). These viruses are food–safe and harmless to humans, but they kill and eat bacteria. So these beads can be safely applied to food to chuck out harmful pathogens.

Graduate student Tian, who led the study as part of his Ph.D. research, said, “When we spray it on food, we basically gather billions of mini-soldiers to protect our food from bacterial contamination,”

In lab tests, researchers were able to free lettuce and meat thoroughly from E. coli 0157. E. coli 0157 is a major foodborne pathogen causing severe disease in humans worldwide. Scientists foresee that they could also kill harmful bacteria such as Salmonella and Listeria by using other types of bacteriophages.

The research was recently published in the journal Nature Communications.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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