UV tolerance of Lactococcus lactis 936-type phages: Impact of wavelength, matrix, and pH

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Ultraviolet C (UVC) radiation is a widely used technology for the disinfection of surfaces, air flows, water and other liquids. Although extensive research has been conducted on the UV tolerance of bacteriophages used as surrogates for waterborne viruses, limited information is available on phages relevant to food processing. Phages of dairy starters may reach high numbers in dairy facilities and cause fermentation failure with great economic losses for the dairy industry. Here, the UV tolerance of virulent phages, belonging to the 936-group (Skunavirus) of Lactococcus lactis subsp. diacetylactis F7/2, was assessed, employing both host infectivity loss and qPCR assays. A highly heat-tolerant phage (P680) and a less heat-tolerant phage (P008) were exposed to UV radiation at 265 nm (UVC), 285 nm (UVB) and 365 nm (UVA), respectively, in an aqueous suspension, using UV Light-Emitting-Diodes (LEDs) in a static set-up. UVC at 265 nm achieved the highest total inactivation, leading to a 4 log10 reduction of the phage titer at a UV dose of 327 and 164 mJ/cm2 for P680 and P008, respectively. UVB at 285 nm achieved similar inactivation levels, while UVA at 365 nm did not cause major reductions. Phages were also suspended in yoghurt serum of pH 5.5 and pH 7.0 and exposed to UVC radiation at 265 nm. The heat-tolerant phage P680 was more UV tolerant for all wavelengths, matrices and pH values tested. A higher aggregation degree together with less DNA damage was observed for both phages at pH 5.5, especially for phage P680, indicating a UV light-shielding effect. Interestingly, there were indications of some phage survivors exhibiting higher UV tolerance on re-exposure, pointing out a need for further investigation. Our results show that UV LEDs emitting at 265 nm and 285 nm are efficient in reducing the phage population significantly, but also underline that 936-type phages are relatively UV resistant. A further understanding of the main factors influencing UV efficiency could enable future use of the UV technology as an alternative or complement to thermal treatment for phage inactivation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109824
JournalInternational Journal of Food Microbiology
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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© 2022 The Authors

    Research areas

  • Dairy bacteriophages, LEDs, Light-shielding, Non-thermal treatment, Tailing, UVA, UVB, UVC inactivation

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