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Cheese and yogurt could defeat hospital superbugs

7 December 2010

Bacteria that ferment food can protect against MRSA and other superbugs.

Cheese and yoghurt are made when ?good?bacteria react with milk in a process called fermentation. These ?good? bacteria have evolved ways to protect themselves from other harmful bacteria that might also be present in fermenting milk, and they release a range of antibiotics called bacteriocins that can kill invading or competing bacteria.

HRB-funded researchers, Dr Paul Cotter, Prof Colin Hill, Prof Paul Ross and Clare Piper from Teagasc Food Research Centre and University College Cork have studied two such natural antibiotics.

Nisin and lacticin-3147 seem to be very effective against two well known hospital superbugs; MRSA and VRE, according toDr Cotter.

?These natural antibiotics stop both superbugs from growing,? he says, describing how the researchers use bioengineering techniques to make these bacteriocins even better killers of superbugs.

?We take out the gene that makes the antibiotic, change it slightly and then put it back in. In this way we can develop a whole range of bacteriocins that work against everything from plaque causing bacteria to hospital superbugs such as Clostridiumdifficile (C. diff) and MRSA.

?The group?s early tests indicate that the bacteriocins are often as good as, if not better, than standard antibiotics, and bacteria seem to have a harder time developing resistance to them.

?Up until now our research has been building up a solid foundation so that we can move with confidence to the next stage in testing,? says Dr Cotter. ?It?s probably another three to five years before we actually see these in clinical use, but they do hold vast untapped potential to change the way we fight infections.

?There are currently two patents pending, covering over 50 different bioengineered bacteriocin compounds.


  • Potential to revolutionise the fight against infection worldwide.
  • Two patents pending.

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