News last update:6 Aug 2012

Chicken protein fights food pathogens

Dutch scientists have identified a protein in the digestive tract of chickens that might serve as an antimicrobial agent against food-borne pathogens.

Food-borne pathogens, responsible for most cases of food poisoning in developed countries, are commonly affiliated with poultry products including chicken. Therapeutic doses of antibiotics in chicken feed have been administered since the 1950s but are now discouraged due to increasing rates of antibiotic resistance.

Antimicrobial activity

In the study researchers, led by Albert van Dijk of Utrecht University, tested chickens for B-defensin gallinacin-6, or Gal-6, protein and explored its antimicrobial activity against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, as well as yeast.
The researchers reported observing high levels of Gal-6 in the chickens' esophagus and crop and moderate expression in their glandular stomach.

Colony-counting tests showed strong bactericidal activity against various bacteria, including Campylobacter, Salmonella, and E. coli, which are all major food-borne pathogens. Fungicidal activity was also noted.

First report
"To our knowledge, this is the first report of a chicken B-defensin highly expressed in the digestive tract and displaying strong bactericidal activity against food-borne pathogens," said the researchers.

The study is reported in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemo-therapy.

Related website:
Utrecht University

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