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Plant-based products to fight superbacteria

Multi-resistant bacteria are a problem for human health due to misuse of antibiotics in animal feed. Researchers at the department of Plant and Environmental Sciences are contributing to a new, healthier solution

Increased antibiotic use in animal production means that more dangerous bacteria are becoming resistant to common treatments. According to scientists at the University of Copenhagen, the solution may come from a more natural source.

Researchers from the Center of Excellence for Dynamic Molecular Interactions (DynaMo) at UCPH and the company Fermentationexperts are studying the composition of a fermented rape seed cake used as animal feed. The team is using principles of biotechnologies to develop dry fermented products to use for livestock production. Their main objective is to identify the compounds that have an antimicrobial effect in the fermented cake.

”On top of improving food quality and decreasing the use of antibiotics in pig farming, we may discover new kinds of antibiotics,” says professor Barbara Ann Halkier, head of DynaMo, who is optimistic about the applications of the fermented product.

Antibiotic-resistant superbacteria

Imagine a world in the beginning of the 20th century, where people would die from a simple infection. Thanks to Sir Alexander Fleming and his discovery of Penicillin, this world is now over and infection are easily treated. Even back then, Fleming knew the risks of bacteria developing resistances.

Part of the problem now is coming from intensive farming, where animals are fed high quantities of antibiotics. In the United States and in the EU, it is now forbidden to use antibiotics as preventive treatment, increasing risks of resistant population. In Denmark, the problem is still contained thanks to a strict law controlling farming.

Farmers feeding pigs and piglets with rape seed fermented cakes observed significantly improved pigs and piglets health due to an antimicrobial effect.

Plants as skilled biochemists

Plant biotechnologists, synthetic biologists, and biotech companies are working together to achieve sustainable solutions to cope with food demand and better health.

As Barbara Halkier, head of DynaMo, puts it:

”Plants are fantastic biochemists and understanding their skills may be used to create both natural and synthetic products which have the potential to improve human health and meet environmental challenges.”

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