Veterinary phage therapies as alternatives to antibiotics in poultry production

The use of antibiotics is currently being reduced in animal production so alternative methods are   needed to combat bacterial diseases in food animals and to control transmission to humans of the pathogens responsible for foodborne illnesses. Potential alternatives are few: Competitive Exclusion (CE) and Bacteriophage (phage) Therapy represent two of the most promising alternatives. Whilst there is one approved CE product on the market, commercial use is limited due to very high costs of production, highly restricted means of administration, and reduced efficacy.

Phages are specific in killing a limited range of bacterial strains, as opposed to antibiotics, and do not cause infections of animals or plants. Replication of a lytic phage results in lysis and killing of the host bacterium, increasing phage numbers considerably. Research has identified phages which kill Salmonella, Campylobacter, and other pathogenic bacteria, and established rapid, simple methods for amplification of phages to very large numbers. Recent work has shown phages to be effective in removing contamination from poultry carcasses, and also in killing pathogens in the intestinal tract of live poultry and in eggs. Using this phenomenon to protect or “cure” infected animals is the focus of ongoing investigations.

This project will focus on trials in live poultry to evaluate the importance of the following factors: phage choice and production (WPs 2, 4); route of administration and timing of administration (WP5); quantity of phages administered (WP5); modelling of the infection and curing process (WP3).

The project will also consider strategies to combat problems related to: development of phage-resistant strains of pathogens in poultry and the environment; destruction of phages by stomach acidity following oral administration.


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