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Bacteriophages reduce Escherichia coli O157:H7 levels in experimentally inoculated sheep

Bach, S.J., Johnson, R.P., Stanford, K., McAllister, T.A. (2009). Bacteriophages reduce Escherichia coli O157:H7 levels in experimentally inoculated sheep, 89(2), 285-293.


Bacteriophage biocontrol has potential as a means of mitigating the prevalence of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in ruminants. The efficacy of oral administration of bacteriophages for reducing fecal shedding of E. coli O157:H7 by sheep was evaluated using 20 Canadian Arcott rams (50.0±3.0) housed in four rooms (n=5) in a contained facility. The rams had ad libitum access to drinking water and a pelleted barley-based total mixed ration, delivered once daily. Experimental treatments consisted of administration of E. coli O157:H7 (O157), E. coli O157:H7+bacteriophages (O157+phage), bacteriophages (phage), and control (CON). Oral inoculation of the rams with 109 CFU of a mixture of four nalidixic acid-resistant strains of E. coli O157:H7 was performed on day 0. A mixture of 1010 PFU of bacteriophages P5, P8 and P11 was administered on days -2, -1, 0, 6 and 7. Fecal samples collected on 14 occasions over 21 d were analyzed for E. coli O157:H7, total E. coli, total coliforms and bacteriophages. Sheep in treatment O157+phage shed fewer (P<0.05) E. coli O157:H7 than did sheep in treatment O157. Populations of total coliforms and total E. coli were similar (P<0.05) among treatments, implying that bacteriophage lysis of non-target E. coli and coliform bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract did not occur. Bacteriophage numbers declined rapidly over 21 d, which likely reduced the chance of collision between bacteria and bacteriophage. Oral administration of bacteriophages reduced shedding of E. coli O157:H7 by sheep, but a delivery system that would protect bacteriophages during passage through the intestine may increase the effectiveness of this strategy as well as allow phage to be administered in the feed.

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