Electron beam research aims to defeat antimicrobial resistance

Researchers at Huddersfield University are taking part in an international project that will use beams of electrons to synthesise the anti-microbial peptide from egg proteins.


Developing a new method for the commercial production of anti-microbial peptide’s (AMPs) could open up a new range of opportunities for the use of bio-active peptides, the team said.

Over the last decade AMPs have delivered promising results in helping anti-infectives overcome increasing antibiotic resistance problems but have proven difficult to produce commercially.

Dubbed RADOV (‘RADiation harvesting of bioactive peptides from egg prOteins and their integration in adVanced functional products’), the four-year project features an international consortium of partners and has been awarded €2m from the European Union’s Euratom Research and Training Programme (EURATOM) Horizon Europe to carry out the research.

Heading the team from Huddersfield is Professor Robert Edgecock from the University’s School of Computing and Engineering.

“Antimicrobial peptides are small proteins present in different lifeforms in nature, or that result from enzymatic digestion of proteins, which provides these lifeforms with a natural defence against microbial infections,” he said in a statement.  “In addition to the more specific antibacterial and anti-viral actions, they have shown immune-modulatory activities, antifungal actions, anti-inflammatory properties and even possess the ability to disintegrate cancerous cell membranes.”


What makes AMPs viable and important alternative antimicrobial agents, said Professor Edgecock, is the fact that the development of resistance by the microbes against the AMPs is relatively slow or delayed compared to that against conventional antibiotics.

“However, despite their promise, very few of the AMPs have been commercialised so far, mainly due to technical difficulties in their manufacture,” he said.

To begin with, the researchers will use beams of electrons to synthesise the AMPs from egg proteins, and the results acquired regarding the peptide structure, irradiation conditions, and related bioactivity properties will become a vital output of the project.

The researchers will then use electron beam irradiation to further integrate the AMPs into two new products, peptide-laden antimicrobial/antioxidant hydrogel wound dressings and peptide-grafted active plastic foils for food packaging. This will effectively demonstrate the potential of the technique and the benefit of the antimicrobial properties of egg-derived bioactive peptides manufactured by radiation-induced fragmentation.

Co-ordinating the project is Poland’s Institute of Nuclear Chemistry and Technology, who will be assisted by Huddersfield University, Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Italy’s University of Palermo, the Italian National Research Council and Portugal’s Association of Instituto Superior Técnico for Research and Development.

Also playing a role in the successful implementation of the project will be three industrial partners: Kikgel Sp. z o.o. and Dekofilm Polska Sp. z o.o. from Poland and Italy’s E.P.S. S.p.A. Egg Powder Specialists.