UK scientists have found a way to destroy deadly food-poisoning bacteria using an agent found in viruses.

A team including Professor Mike Gasson from the Institute of Food Research, Profos, an international company specialising in bacterial viruses and antimicrobial agents, and PBL, a firm with deals with technology transfer, an idea of using a virus agent for food safety is being translated into practical technology.

“Viruses can infect bacteria as well as humans. A virus invades bacterial cells, multiplies and then produces an enzyme to burst the cell wall, enabling it to escape and infect more cells,” said Gasson. “We targeted an enzyme with this fire-power, to develop its potential in combating pathogenic bacteria.”

A worldwide licence has been granted to the technology, marking a further step towards commercialisation.