Using viruses to control salmonella infections in humans is nothing new, reports D.L. Harris, DVM, Iowa State University (ISU). The next test is whether they work in pigs.

Eastern Bloc countries used bacteriophages in the days of communism to treat human illnesses because of a shortage of antibiotics, says Harris, professor, Department of Microbiology and the College of Veterinary Medicine's Veterinary Diagnosticsand Production Animal Medicine at ISU.

The pressure to reduce antibiotics in livestock led Harris and ISU's Greg Phillips to develop a research model to try injecting bacteriophages to control salmonella in pigs and pork. They received a seed grant of $25,000 from the National Pork Producers Council. PIC is funding the research assistantship for graduate student Nakhyung Lee to participate in the project.

According to Harris, bacteriophages reproduce in bacterial cells and kill them. Unlike most viruses, bacteriophages can only infect bacterial cells; they can't infect animal or human cells.

"There is a chance bacteriophages can replace antibiotics to control bacterial swine diseases and food-borne pathogens such as salmonella in pork," says Harris.