Predatory bacteria with a taste for Salmonella look to be a promising alternative to antibiotics. Research conducted by a team of scientists at the University of Nottingham found that the not-so-friendly bacterium, Bdellovibrio, consumed the harmful Salmonella in the guts of chickens, significantly reducing the infection.
Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus is known to prey upon pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella but this is the first published study into its use in living animals. Previous studies have already looked into the potential use of Bdellovibrio in treatments for tropical foot rots and wounds but these promising results of this study suggest that it is also safe and effective when ingested.
Salmonella grows in the guts of chickens and can cause food poisoning in humans if consumed in undercooked meat and eggs and is closely monitored in the poultry industry. The development of antibiotic resistance is therefore a major concern for human and animal health, and scientists are considering all possible alternatives. Bdellovibrio could help solve this problem, as they are now known to attack the dangerous pathogens in the animal’s gut, therefore acting as living antibiotic agents. The bacterial predators break into the Salmonella cells and eat them from the inside out.
The researchers found that Bdellovibrio, whilst bad news if you’re Salmonella, had no adverse effects on the treated chickens. The growth, behaviour and well-being of the birds were tested. The study also found that the Bdellovibrio did not spread between the animals, which is vital if it is to be realistically considered as a treatment.