New phage offers rapid E. coli detection in meat, says BioMerieux

By Jane Byrne


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29-Jul-2008 - A new detection system for E. coli 0157: H7 is faster and more precise than molecular methods, claim the French licence holders.

BioMérieux, a supplier of diagnostic systems, said that its new Vidas UP phage recombinant protein is developed by German group Profos AG to be highly sensitive towards Escherichia coli (E. coli) 0157: H7.

E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacteria that can cause bloody diarrhoea, dehydration, and in the most severe cases, kidney failure.  It has been found to cause serious harm, especially to children, senior citizens and those with weak immune systems.

The bacteriophage is suitable for testing meat samples and is the latest addition to the Vidas line, which is an automated system for food-borne pathogen detection within food service laboratories, said a company spokesperson.

Fast detection

Increasing regulatory emphasis on food safety in plants and the cost of recalls has spurred food companies to seek faster ways of detecting pathogens.

"Vidas UP offers faster and more precise detection of E. coli 0157: H7 than molecular methods, delivering test results within seven hours, and is capable of analysing sample sizes up to 375 grams," added the spokesperson.

Bacteriophages are viruses that target bacteria, rather than human, plant or animal cells. They use adhesion structures to bind to their bacterial hosts.

US meat recalls

Ground beef is one of the leading sources of E. coli contamination in the US although the number of cases has reduced as a result of better food safety practices in the meat sector.

However, this month saw Omaha-based Nebraska Beef Ltd recall 5.3m pounds of meat it produced for ground beef between May 16 and June 26, as the US Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) linked the products to an outbreak of E. coli illnesses affecting 41 people. 

FSIS labelled the recall as Class 1, which means the product involved carries a high health risk.

The federal investigators have also concluded that the production practices employed by Nebraska Beef are insufficient to effectively control E. coli O157:H7 in their beef products that are intended for grinding.

The FSIS also issued a public health alert in May for beef products from Tyson Fresh Meats due to possible E. coli O157:H7 contamination, while in January, Minnesota-based Rochester Meat Co issued a major recall of 188,000 pounds of ground beef and other products because of similar concerns.


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