Prebiotics Could Help Combat Meat Pathogens, Says USDA

US - US Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have reported a new method of developing prebiotics from certain crops, which could have the potential to help combat the incidence of salmonella and E. coli in animals slaughtered for their meat.
calendar icon 25 June 2007
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According to reports published this week by USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the new production method involves turning certain sugars from crops such as corn and soybeans into oligosaccharides.

Oligosaccharides, which are complex carbohydrates, are already recognized for their potential as prebiotics, which stimulate the growth of probiotic bacteria in the gut. These, in turn, are understood to promote intestinal health.

This has led to the growth of a market for foods containing prebiotics - which can be incorporated into a wider variety of end products than probiotic bacteria.

But ARS chemist Greg Cote says that besides unlocking minerals, vitamins and other nutrients from the oligosaccharides, probiotic bacteria can also make the colon less hospitable to pathogens, such as Salmonella and E coli, that can cause illness in humans.

When fed to chicks or piglets, for example, the prebiotics could bolster the growth and activity of probiotic bacteria so they would 'outcompete' Salmonella for space and nutrients, said ARS. This could have obvious benefits later on, when the animals are slaughtered for their meat.

Cote, who is in the ARS Bioproducts and Biocatalysis Research Unit at Peoria, Illinios, developed the oligosaccharides together with Scott Holt, an associate professor with Western Illinois University's Department of Biological Sciences. They envision formulating the oligosaccharides as a prebiotic product that could be administered orally.

ARS explains that their production method uses a microbial enzyme called alternansucrase to catalyze a series of biochemical reactions that convert sugars like sucrose, glucose or maltitol into different kinds of oligosaccharides.

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