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Examining the effects of an anti-Salmonella bacteriophage preparation, BAFASAL, on ex vivo human gut microbiome composition and function using a multi-omics approach

By Janice Mayne, Xu Zhang, James Butcher, Krystal Walker, Zhibin Ning, Ewelina Wojcik, Jaroslaw Dastych, Alain Stintzi, Daniel Figeys

Posted 05 Jul 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.07.04.451072

Salmonella infections (salmonellosis) pose serious health risks to humans, usually via contamination in our food chain. This foodborne pathogen causes major food losses and human illnesses that result in significant economic impacts. Pathogens such as Salmonella have traditionally been kept at bay through the use of antibiotics, but antibiotic overuse within the food industry has led to the development of numerous multidrug-resistant bacterial strains. Thus, governments are now restricting antibiotic use, forcing the industry to search for alternatives to secure safe food chains. Bacteriophages, viruses that infect and kill bacteria, are currently being investigated and used as replacement treatments and prophylactics due to their specificity and efficacy. They are generally regarded as safe alternatives to antibiotics as they are natural components of the ecosystem. One example is BAFASEL, a commercial bacteriophage mixture that specifically targets Salmonella and is currently approved for use in poultry farming. However, when specifically used in the industry they can also make their way into humans through our food chain or exposure as is the case for antibiotics. In particular, agricultural workers could be repeatedly exposed to bacteriophages supplemented in animal feeds. To the best of our knowledge, no studies have investigated the effects of such exposure to bacteriophages on the human gut microbiome. In this study, we used a novel in vitro assay called RapidAIM to investigate BAFASAL's potential impact on five individual human gut microbiomes. Multi-omics analyses, including 16S rRNA gene sequencing and metaproteomic, revealed that ex vivo human gut microbiota composition and function were unaffected by BAFASAL treatment providing an additional measure for its safety. Due to the critical role of the gut microbiome in human health and the known role of bacteriophages in regulation of microbiome composition and function, we suggest assaying the impact of bacteriophage-cocktails on the human gut microbiome as a part of their safety assessment.

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