SAN ANGELO, Texas – A bacteriophage is a virus that infects and replicates within bacteria, and a university researcher is using them to destroy Salmonella bacteria in meat products. Amilton de Mello, an assistant professor in the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources at the Univ. of Nevada, Reno, was invited to present his findings at the American Meat Science Association’s 69th Reciprocal Meat Conference held June 19-22 at Angelo State Univ.

In de Mello’s experiments, meat products contaminated with four types of Salmonella bacteria were treated with Myoviridae bacteriophages during mixing. The Salmonella was introduced on refrigerated meat and poultry trim, and then treated with the bacteriophages before grinding.

“We were able to reduce Salmonella by as much as 90 percent in ground poultry, ground pork and ground beef,” de Mello said. “We’re excited to be able to show such good results, food safety is an important part of our work and Salmonella is one of the most prevalent bacteria in the nation’s food supply.”

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that non-typhoidal Salmonella causes 1.2 million illnesses and 450 deaths annually in the United States. Symptoms of infection include fever, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. People contract Salmonella by eating contaminated food, drinking contaminated water or touching infected animals and not washing their hands afterward.