Bacteria defend their turf with powerful weapons: bacteriocins.
These peptides kill off competitors and maintain space and food for themselves. Not a foreign concept for us. Yet this ammunition is much less costly—it comes free of charge with fermented foods. (Short chain fatty acids and hydrogen peroxide are also produced by bacteria for defense)
Bacteriocins are all over the map when it comes to structure and function which makes them strong against a variety of invaders. And they– for the most part– won’t wither in the heat.
Food technologists see great value in tapping these bacteriocins to act as natural “antibiotics” to preserve food from contamination. The medical and pharmaceutical complex too is exploring how these bacterial by-products may fight disease.
A must-read is available to all (free access online here) courtesy of Shih-Chun Yang and colleagues who reviewed the latest knowledge and reports about bacteriocins. The article which appears in May 2014 in Frontiers in Microbiology journal summarizes the different types:
Bacteriocins from gram-negative bacteria
Bacteriocins from gram-positive bacteria
- The Gram-positive bacteriocins are generally divided into class I , II and III.
The article discusses the applications of bacteriocins in food technology, both as natural source and as a commercial preservative.
Very promising, write the authors, is the news that bacteriocins “show activity against tumor cells. Considering that bacteriocins are naturally and legally added in foods, bacteriocins may be suitable as a potential anti-tumor drug candidate.”
And in infectious disease control, bacteriocins may one day be employed against drug-resistant pathogens.
Read this excellent review.