Skip to main content

Application of bacteriophage as food preservative to control enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC)

Abstract

Objectives

This study was conducted to characterize lytic bacteriophages infecting enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) on several types of food and analyze their ability as phage biocontrol to be used as a food preservative. Characterization was done for bacteriophage morphology and stability, along with the determination of minimum multiplicity of infection (miMOI), and application of bacteriophage in the food matrix.

Results

Out of the five samples, BL EPEC bacteriophage exhibited the highest titer of 2.05  ×  109 PFU/mL, with a wide range of pH tolerance, and high thermal tolerance. BL EPEC also showed the least reduction after 168 h of incubation, with a rate of 0.90  ×  10–3 log10 per hour. Bacteriophages from BL EPEC and CS EPEC showed an ideal value of miMOI of 0.01. As a food preservative, BL EPEC bacteriophage was able to reduce bacteria in food samples with a reduction above 0.24 log10 in lettuce and approximately 1.84 log10 in milk. From this study we found that BL EPEC bacteriophage showed the greatest potential to be used as phage biocontrol to improve food safety

Introduction

Pathogenic bacteria such as Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) are one of the main cause of foodborne disease, and it also has been reported as the major source of many foodborne disease cases. In 2010, it was estimated that foodborne disease had caused the death of more than 4,20,000 people globally [1, 2]. EPEC can infect and transmit into the human body through contaminated food due to the poor sanitation, therefore it can bring a big impact on public health, especially outbreak diseases [3]. Many strategies have been used to reduce the contamination of pathogenic bacteria in food, such as the use of various chemical preservatives, but some of them came with unwanted side effects. Therefore, an alternative solution offered is to use bacteriophage to control food borne pathogens for food preservatives to improve food safety [4].

Bacteriophages have the potency to be used as a natural food preservative mainly due to their high specificity, self-replicating, and rapid killing property towards the pathogenic bacteria [5]. In applying bacteriophages in various forms of food, it should have characteristics that are suitable to be used as a food preservative, such as lytic activity towards pathogenic bacteria, not altering the quality of the food [6, 7] and have a broad spectrum to cover all important target bacteria [8]. The objectives of this research were to characterize lytic bacteriophages infecting EPEC, morphology determination, stability and to analyze their effectiveness on several types of food.

Main text

Methods

Bacterial refreshment

Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli Nmr-2 from Namru-2 was used in this research as the bacterial host. EPEC Nmr-2 was inoculated onto Luria Bertani (LB) agar and incubated at 37 °C overnight.

Bacteriophage enrichment and purification

EPEC Nmr-2 was inoculated into LB broth and incubated for 6–8 h to obtain the mid-log growth phase [9]. We used 5 bacteriophage of EPEC which were isolated from previous studies including (K EPEC) from ketoprak, (BI EPEC) from beef intestine (BL EPEC) from beef lung, (CI EPEC) from chicken intestine and (CS EPEC) from chicken skin. Bacteriophage was enriched by adding previously grown bacteria and specific bacteriophage into LB broth and incubated overnight [10]. After enrichment, the mixture was centrifuged at 10,000×g for 10 min. The supernatant was filtered using a 0.22 μm pore-size membrane syringe filter [9].

Bacteriophage titer determination

Titer was determined using the double-agar overlay method. Bacteriophage lysate was diluted using SM buffer with a series of tenfold dilution. Visible plaque was calculated and converted into plaque forming unit per milliliter (PFU/mL) [9].

pH and thermal stability assay

For pH stability assay, bacteriophage lysate was added into a series of tubes containing SM buffers (pH 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, and 14). As for thermal stability assay, bacteriophage lysate was incubated at different temperatures (4, 25, 37, 45, 55, 60, 65, and 70 °C). Titer was determined using the double-layer agar method [11].

Morphology analysis

Bacteriophage morphology was determined using the Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) at Eijkman Institute of Molecular Biology, Jakarta. Bacteriophage lysate was dropped onto a 400-mesh grid and was negatively stained using 2% (w/v) uranyl acetate on carbon-coated grids. Grids were observed using JEM-1010 TEM (JEOL, Tokyo, Japan) at magnification of  ×  30,000 [10].

Storage stability analysis

Bacteriophage stability was determined by incubating bacteriophage lysates at 120 rpm, 37 °C and were taken in 0, 1, 5, and 7 days. Titer was determined using the double-layer agar method [11]. Bacteriophage reduction rate was calculated with the formula below:

Reduction rate  = \(\frac{T- {T}_{0}}{t}\)

T  =  Bacteriophage titer after 168 h of incubation.

T0  =  Bacteriophage initial titer.

t  =  Time of incubation.

Determination of minimum multiplicity of infection (miMOI)

EPEC Nmr-2 was grown in LB broth overnight. Absorbance of bacteria was measured at OD600  =  0.132 (~ 108 CFU/mL) and diluted to 106 CFU/mL. Bacteriophage sample was diluted to 103 PFU/mL. Bacteria and bacteriophage lysates were added into microplate wells with MOI ratio from 0.001 to 1000 and were done in duplicate. Absorbance was measured using a microplate reader for 12 h [12].

Application of bacteriophage

Shrimp, chicken meat, milk, and tofu were sterilized using an autoclave, whereas lettuce was sprayed with 70% alcohol. EPEC Nmr-2 was grown in LB broth and diluted to 106 CFU/m. Bacteria and bacteriophage lysate (MOI 0.01) were added to the samples and incubated at room temperature and 4 °C, overnight. Lysates were diluted in SM buffer and enumerated using spread plate method to count the bacterial reduction [5, 13].

Results

Bacteriophage titer

A total of 5 bacteriophages were successfully purified which were K EPEC, BI EPEC, BL EPEC, CI EPEC and CS EPEC. From this study, we found that BL EPEC bacteriophage showed the highest titer with a titer value of 2.05  ×  109 PFU/mL. The lowest titer was shown by BI EPEC bacteriophage with a titer of 3.33  ×  108 PFU/mL. Whereas K EPEC was 1.57  ×  109 PFU/mL, CI EPEC was 1.40  ×  109, and CS EPEC was 1.67  ×  109 PFU/mL.

pH and thermal stability assay

All of bacteriophage were stable upon exposure to pH 4–10, whereas there were no recoverable bacteriophage upon exposure to pH 14 (Fig. 1a). All of Bacteriophage were also stable upon heating from 4 to 75 °C with the highest titer found from treatment at 4 °C (Fig. 1b). Bacteriophage titer was constantly declining with the rise of temperature.

Fig. 1
figure1

Stability of bacteriophage (a) K EPEC, (b) BI EPEC, (c) BL EPEC, (d) CI EPEC, (e) CS EPEC. a Stability on different pH values b Stability on different temperatures c Stability of bacteriophage during storage without the presence of its bacterial cell host

Morphology analysis

Morphology analysis was done for K EPEC, BI EPEC, and CS EPEC bacteriophage, since the analysis using TEM for BL EPEC and CI EPEC bacteriophage had been done in previous study [10]. TEM results showed that all bacteriophage samples had an icosahedral head and a tail (Fig. 2a). Based on the measurement, the tail diameter for K EPEC bacteriophage was 10 nm, 19 nm for BI EPEC, and 17 nm for CS EPEC, while the tail length was 133 nm for K EPEC, 82 nm for BI EPEC, and 86 nm for CS EPEC.

Fig. 2
figure2

a Electron micrographs of bacteriophages (a) K EPEC, (b) BI EPEC, (c) CS EPEC. b The effect of several MOI ratio of bacteriophages (a) K EPEC, (b) BI EPEC, (c) BL EPEC, (d) CS EPEC, and (e) CI EPEC against EPEC bacteria’s growth

Storage stability analysis

Deterioration of viable bacteriophage titer was occurred after 168 h of incubation without the presence of a bacterial host. BL EPEC bacteriophage showed the least reduction with a reduction of 0.16 log10 and reduction rate of 0.90 × 10–3 log10 per hour while CS EPEC bacteriophage showed the most reduction with a reduction of 1.80 log10 and reduction rate of 1.08  ×  10–2 log10 per hour (Fig. 1c).

Minimum inhibitory multiplication of infection (miMOI)

The greatest MOI tested was 1000 which was equivalent to 1000 PFU per 1 CFU and the least MOI tested was 0.001. BL EPEC and CS EPEC had the least miMOI, which were 0.01, BI EPEC was 10 and was the greatest miMOI, and Both K EPEC and CI EPEC were 0.1 (Fig. 2b).

Application of bacteriophage

The application of bacteriophage was used to assess the ability of bacteriophages in infecting the host bacteria on various food matrix. Food samples were artificially contaminated with EPEC, and bacteriophage used in this application was BL EPEC with MOI value of 0.01. The result showed that BL EPEC was able to reduce the bacteria concentration on lettuce and milk samples with reduction above 0.24log10. However, BL EPEC was not able to reduce bacteria concentration on tofu, chicken meat and shrimp samples (Table 1).

Table 1 The effectiveness of BL EPEC to various food samples in reducing EPEC

Discussions

In this study, bacteriophage titers were observed between 108 and 109 PFU/mL. This variation could be caused by differences in bacteriophage stability under certain conditions. Clear plaques were also formed on the agar plate, indicating the presence of lytic bacteriophages [14].

In general, most bacteriophages are stable under pH 4–11 [15]. BI EPEC, BL EPEC, and CS EPEC had a broader pH range compared to the other bacteriophages used in this study. The difference between bacteriophage stability in various pH can be caused by the difference in each isoelectric point. Bacteriophages were most likely to form aggregate when the pH was lesser or equal to their isoelectric point [16], hence decreasing their effectiveness to infect bacterial cells. As for thermal stability, all of bacteriophage samples showed a high tolerance toward high temperature. Denaturation of bacteriophage may occur as bacteriophage is mainly composed of nucleic acid and proteins. Upon showing a high tolerance towards high temperature, it was most likely that bacteriophages in this study were able to retain their native folded state when exposed to high temperature [17]. The stability of bacteriophages in this study was similar to previously reported phages having stability in pH 4–11, 60 °C [18] and pH 4–12, 70 °C [11].

Based on the TEM results, bacteriophages in this study most likely belonged to the Caudovirales order. Td is used to differentiate Myoviridae (td  ≥  16 nm) and Siphoviridae (td  <  16 nm) [19]. From this, it could be assumed that K EPEC bacteriophage belonged to the Siphoviridae, while BI EPEC and CS EPEC belonged to the Myoviridae. However, further analysis such as DNA sequencing is required to confirm the classification of each bacteriophages [20].

Stability of bacteriophages without the presence of a host was observed. Based on the results, BL EPEC bacteriophage exhibited the least reduction. In a study conducted by Huang et al. [11], titer of phage LPSE1 was reduced for 0.5 log10 after 168 h of incubation, with a reduction rate of 2.9  ×  10–3 log10 per hour.

The miMOI was estimated to be the lowest concentration of phage particles that can inhibit bacterial growth. Each tested phage showed lytic activity against EPEC Nmr-2, and all bacterial growth decreased as the MOI increased. The most effective miMOI was found from BL EPEC and CS EPEC, which was 0.01. Synnott et al. [21] and Bicalho et al. [12] also stated that miMOI value from Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli phage was 0.01 and the most ideal MOI was the lowest. A greater MOI value will result in a rapid lytic activity as the bacteriophage replicates faster [22].

The effectiveness of application of bacteriophage as food preservative depended on several factors, such as food matrix, surface area, contact time, structure, bacterial load, dose of bacteriophage, and presence of other compounds [20, 23]. Based on the results, food samples lettuce and milk showed a compelling reduction of bacteria both at 4 °C and room temperature (Table 1). However, the reduction on other samples was below the detectable level. It might be happened due to the capability of phages in lysing the entire bacteria. Bacterial suspension that was added into food samples might be trapped within the protein network of the matrix, therefore the phages were not able to reach the bacteria [13, 24]. At a temperature  <  12 °C, phages were unable to infect host cells because the viable cells were inactivated, and phage requires the active growth phase of bacteria for replication [25, 26]. Phages that were kept at cold temperatures were more stable and still had a high titer compared to room temperature storage. However, the lytic activity at or above 15 °C is more effective in reducing the number of bacteria found in food because phage replication still occurs [23, 27]. Further research is required regarding the application of phage to improve food safety including experiments in different food matrices.

In conclusion, all of the bacteriophages were consider stable under specific pH, thermal and storage conditions with high titer. From five bacteriophages that had been purified and characterized, BL EPEC bacteriophage showed the greatest potency and had promising results to be used as a food preservative. BL EPEC bacteriophage showed high pH and thermal tolerance with the least reduction after 168 h of incubation without the presence of a bacterial cell host. Application of BL EPEC into various foods also effective to reduce bacterial growth.

Limitation

Further study is still needed to be done to screen the effectiveness of this phage against other food-borne pathogens. Application of this phage in other variety of food also need to be explored. Molecular characterization also needs to be conducted for each bacteriophages.

Availability of data and materials

The datasets used and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Abbreviations

EPEC:

Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli

LB:

Luria–Bertani medium

miMOI:

Minimum multiplicity of infection

SM:

Sodium–Magnesium buffer

References

  1. 1.

    Frisca F, Lay BW, Waturangi DE. Identification of class 1 integron of Escherichia coli from street foods in Jakarta. J Microbiol Indones. 2007;1(1):15–8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Dini C, de Urazza PJ. Isolation and selection of coliphages as potential biocontrol agents of enterohaemmorhagic and shiga toxin-producing E. coli (EHEC and STEC) in cattle. J Applied Microbiol. 2010;109:873–87.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    World Health Organization. WHO’s first ever global estimates of foodborne diseases find children under 5 account for almost one third of deaths. 2015. https://www.who.int/news/item/03-12-2015-who-s-first-ever-global-estimates-of-foodborne-diseases-find-children-under-5-account-for-almost-one-third-of-deaths. Accessed 14 Nov 2020.

  4. 4.

    Hartland EL, Leong JM. Enteropathogenic and enterohemorrhagic E. coli: ecology, pathogenesis, and evolution. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2013;3(15):1–3.

    Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Spricigo DA, Bardina C, Cortes P, Llagostera M. Use of a bacteriophage cocktail to control Salmonella in food and the food industry. Int J Food Microbiol. 2013;165:169–74.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Kazi M, Annapure US. Bacteriophage biocontrol of foodborne pathogens. J Food Sci Technol. 2016;53(3):1355–62.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Martinez B, Garcia P, Rodriguez A. Swapping the roles of bacteriocins and bacteriophages in food biotechnology. Curr Opin Biotechnol. 2019;56:1–6.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    McIntyre L, Billington C, Hudson JA, Withers H. Biocontrol of foodborne bacteria: past, present and future strategies. Food New Zealand. 2007;7:25–32.

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Thung TY, Norshafawatie SBMF, Premarathne JMJK, Chang WS, Loo YY, Kuan CH, New CY, Ubong A, Ramzi OSB, Mahyudin NA, et al. Isolation of food-borne pathogen bacteriophages from retail food and environmental sewage. Int Food Res J. 2017;24(1):450–4.

    Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Lukman C, Yonathan C, Magdalena S, Waturangi DE. Isolation and characterization of pathogenic Escherichia coli bacteriophages from chicken and beef offal. BMC Res Notes. 2020;13:8.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Huang C, Virk SM, Shi J, Zhou Y, Willias SP, Morsy MK, Abdelnabby HE, Liu J, Wang X, Li J. Isolation, characterization, and application of bacteriophage LPSE1 against Salmonella enterica in ready to eat (RTE) foods. Front Microbiol. 2018;9:1046.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Bicalho RC, Santos TMA, Gilbert RO, Caixeta LS, Teixeira LM, Bicalho MLS, Machado VS. Susceptibility of Escherichia coli isolated from uteri of postpartum dairy cows to antibiotic and environmental bacteriophages. J Dairy Sci. 2010;93(1):93–104.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Tomat D, Casabonne C, Aquili V, Balague C, Quibrtoni A. Evaluation of a novel cocktail of six lytic bacteriophages against shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli in broth, milk, and meat. Food Microbiol. 2018;76:434–42.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Hyman P. Phages for phage therapy: isolation, characterization, and host range breadth. Pharmaceuticals. 2019;12(35):1–23.

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Ravi Y, Pooja KM, Yadav KDK. Review-bacteriophages in food preservation. Int J Pure App Biosci. 2017;5(3):197–205.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Langlet J, Gaboriaud F, Gantzer C. Effects of pH on plaque forming unit counts and aggregation of MS2 bacteriophage. J Appl Microbiol. 2007;103:1632–8.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Ahmadi H, Radford D, Kropinski AM, Tim LT, Balamurugan S. Thermal-stability and reconstitution ability of Listeria phages P100 and A511. Front Microbiol. 2017;8:2375.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Manohar P, Tamhankar AJ, Lundborg CS, Nachimuthu R. Therapeutic characterization and efficacy of bacteriophage cocktails infecting Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Enterobacter species. Front Microbiol. 2019;10:574.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Ackermann HW, Tiekotter KL. Murphy’s law-if anything can go wrong, it will: problems in phage electron microscopy. Bacteriophage. 2012;2:122–9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Chibani CM, Farr A, Klama S, Dietrich S, Liesegang H. Classifying the unclassified: a phage classification method. Viruses. 2019;11(2):195–210.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Synnott AJ, Kuang Y, Kurimoto M, Yamamichi K, Iwano H, Tanji Y. Isolation from sewage influent and characterization of novel Staphylococcus aureus bacteriophages with wide host ranges and potent lytic capabilities. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2009;75(13):4483–90.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Gonzalez S, Fernandez LK, Gutierrez D, Campelo AB, Rodriguez A, Garcia P. Analysis of different parameters affecting diffusion, propagation, and survival of Staphylophages in bacterial biofilms. Front Microbiol. 2018;9(2348):1–13.

    Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Ly-Chatain MH. The factors affecting effectiveness of treatment in phages therapy [review]. Front Microbiol. 2014;5(51):1–7.

    Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Guenther S, Huwyler D, Richard S, Loessner MJ. Virulent bacteriophage for efficient biocontrol of Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat foods. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2009;75(1):93–100.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Coffey B, Rivas L, Duffy G, Coffey A, Ross RP, McAuliffe O. Assessment of Escherichia coli O157:H7-specific bacteriophages e11/2 and e4/1c in model broth and hide environments. Int J Food Microbiol. 2011;147:188–94.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Wiggins BA, Alexander M. Minimum bacterial density for bacteriophage replication: implications for significance of bacteriophages in natural ecosystems. Appl Environ Microbiol. 1985;49(1):19–23.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    O’Flynn G, Ross RP, Fitzgerald GF, Coffey A. Evaluation of a cocktail of three bacteriophages for biocontrol of Escherichia coli O157:H7. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2004;70(6):3417–24.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank to Namru-2 in providing isolate of EPEC-Nmr2.

Funding

This study was Funded by the Ministry of Education of Indonesia-2019. The funder has no contribution in this study.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

DEW involved in research design and advisory. AM, CPK and GG conducted the research, collected the data, analyzed and processed the data, and prepared the manuscript. SM and DL involved in microbiology and food analysis advisory. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Diana Elizabeth Waturangi.

Ethics declarations

Ethics approval and consent to participate

Not applicable.

Consent for publication

Not applicable.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Waturangi, D.E., Kasriady, C.P., Guntama, G. et al. Application of bacteriophage as food preservative to control enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC). BMC Res Notes 14, 336 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13104-021-05756-9

Download citation

Keywords

  • Bacteriophages
  • Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC)
  • Foodborne disease
  • Food preservative