The latest on good bacteria

Those of you who know me know that I’m a huge fan of bacteriological trivia (i.e., the cells in your body are outnumbered 10-1 by bacterial cells) and that I’m a big fan of “good” bacteria.  In fact, ever since I read Good Germs, Bad Germs (great book, by the way) I’ve been taking Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG every day and am pretty sure I’m the healthier for it.  (There’s double-blind placebo controlled studies about is efficacy– I don’t go for snake oil).  Kim, who is prone to stomach upset, has definitely noticed an improvement.   Anyway, interesting article in today’s Post about scientists working on a new “good bacteria” that kills salmonella on the surface of fruits.  Apparently, in the lab, it even works against the nasty E. Coli.

“This is highly efficient weaponry, right here,” said Brown, pointing to pipettes filled with the “good” bacteria suspended in a saline solution that will be dripped onto the contaminated tomatoes. He presented the initial findings of his research at an international salmonella conference this month in France. “The beauty is that we take
something alive and organic and put it back into the field, and by itself, it will kill other bacteria. We’re right on the edge of this.” It’s a variation on the “enemy of my enemy” philosophy, with scientists like Brown cultivating hostile relatives of harmful bacteria to perform a sort of microscopic fratricide before the bugs can harm humans.

While Brown’s findings haven’t been applied outside the laboratory yet, in his experiments the microorganisms obliterate not only salmonella on tomatoes but also several other pathogens blamed for food-borne illnesses, including listeria and E. coli O15:H7. So far, only vibrio, the bacterium found in warm seawater that can contaminate
oysters and other seafood, has stood its ground against Brown’s bacteria.  Obviously, if this works well at a commercial level, this would be a huge advance for public health. For now, just more “good” bacteria trivia to bore my friends with.

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