Project description (completed research project)
For many thousands of years, humans have used fermenting microorganisms to preserve food. This process results in products that inhibit moulds that spoil food and other organisms. There are probably some strains of bacteria that produce inhibitory substances we don't yet know about that can be used for food preservation. The project seeks to use genome sequencing to identify the strains concerned, which can be used to develop new organic methods of food preservation.
Food preservation is based on the simple principle of fermentation. In this process, microorganisms that are not harmful to humans produce acids or alcohol from the raw material. These substances inhibit the development of harmful organisms such as mould, yeasts and bacteria, thus protecting the food against decay. Alongside acids and alcohol, however, there are many other inhibitory substances that are effective even in very small quantities. They are produced by certain strains of lactobacilli, among other agents. The project uses genome sequencing techniques to identify those lactobacilli that are involved in the production of inhibitory compounds. This is done by comparing the genome of actively inhibitory strains with those of other strains. Where differences are found, the differing genes and their functions are researched further, tested and verified as to whether they are safe. This process will permit the discovery of new highly inhibitory compounds that offer great potential for organic preservation.
The project is making a valuable contribution to the development of new methods for food preservation. It is expected that the discovery of new bacterial mechanisms for inhibition will allow the development of organic preservation methods that can possibly replace existing chemical processes.
Genomic Approach to Identify Interactions between Microbes during Food Fermentation and Biopreservation