Engineering researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed a new method to kill pathogenic bacteria in food handling and packaging.
The development is claimed to represent an alternative to the use of antibiotics or chemical decontamination in food supply systems.
Using nature as their inspiration, the researchers successfully attached cell lytic enzymes to food-safe silica nanoparticles, and created a coating with the demonstrated ability to selectively kill listeria.
The coating kills listeria on contact, even at high concentrations, within a few minutes without affecting other bacteria. The lytic enzymes can also be attached to starch nanoparticles commonly used in food packaging.
This new method is modular, and by using different lytic enzymes, could be engineered to create surfaces that selectively target other deadly bacteria such as anthrax, said Jonathan Dordick, vice president for research and the Howard P. Isermann Professor at Rensselaer, who helped lead the study.
Collaborating with Dordick were Rensselaer colleagues Ravi Kane, the P.K. Lashmet Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, and Linda Schadler, the Russell Sage Professor and associate dean for academic affairs for the Rensselaer School of Engineering.
‘In this study, we have identified a new strategy for selectively killing specific types of bacteria. Stable enzyme-based coatings or sprays could be used in food supply infrastructure—from picking equipment to packaging to preparation—to kill listeria before anyone has a chance to get sick from it,’ Kane said in a statement. ‘What’s most exciting is that we can adapt this technology for all different kinds of harmful or deadly bacteria.’
Results of the study are detailed in the paper Enzyme-based Listericidal Nanocomposites, published in the journal Scientific Reports.
This most recent study builds on the research team’s success in 2010 of creating a coating for killing methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), the bacteria responsible for antibiotic resistant infections.