Bacteriophages – aka phages – are viruses that kill bacteria. Unlike antibiotics, they only kill certain types of bacteria instead of all of them, good and bad alike. For some time now, scientists have been looking for a way of incorporating phages into antibacterial food wrap, but it's proven difficult to keep them alive. Now, however, researchers may have found a way.

McMaster University's Carlos D.M. Filipe and colleagues embedded phages in soluble films known as "sugar glasses." These films consisted of either pullulan, which is a polysaccharide used to prolong the shelf life of fruits and eggs; trehalose, a sugar used as stabilizing agent in freeze drying; or a combination of the two.

While still in a liquid state, the phage-containing films were applied to butcher paper, and allowed to air-dry overnight at room temperature.

When the paper samples were subsequently tested, the phages that were embedded in just pullulan or trehalose lost their bacteria-killing effect in one to two weeks. The phages that were embedded in the mixture of both, though, were still able to infect harmful bacteria such as Lysteria monocytogenes up to three months later.

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering.