Bacteriophage cocktail for biocontrol of <i>Escherichia coli</i> O157:H7: Stability and potential allergenicity study

<div><p><i>Escherichia coli</i> O157:H7 has become a global public health and a food safety problem. Despite the implementation of control strategies that guarantee the safety in various products, outbreaks persist and new alternatives are necessary to reduce this pathogen along the food chain. Recently, our group isolated and characterised lytic bacteriophages against <i>E</i>. <i>coli</i> O157:H7 with potential to be used as biocontrol agents in food. To this end, phages need certain requirements to allow their manufacture and application. The aim of this study was to determine the physical stability and allergenic potential of free and microencapsulated (ME) bacteriophage cocktails against <i>E</i>. <i>coli</i> O157:H7. <i>In vitro</i> and <i>in vivo</i> studies were performed to determine phage survival under different pH, gastrointestinal conditions, temperature and UV light intensities. Results showed that the stability of ME phages was significantly (<i>P</i><0.05) higher than free phages after ultraviolet irradiation, pH conditions between 3 to 7, and exposure to temperatures between at -80°C and 70°C. Both formulations were highly sensitive to very low pH in simulated gastric fluid, but stable in bile salts. <i>In vivo</i> studies in mice confirmed these phages passed through the gastrointestinal tract and were excreted in faeces. <i>In silico</i>, full-length alignment analysis showed that all phage proteins were negative for allergenic potential, but different predicting criteria classified seven phage proteins with a very low probability to be an allergen. In conclusion, these data demonstrated that microencapsulation provided a greater stability to phage formulation under stress conditions and assure a more suitable commercial formulation for the biological control of <i>E</i>. <i>coli</i> O157:H7.</p></div>