May 24, 2000 Small proteins that bacteria use like missiles to fight off competing bacteria could one day be used as an alternative to antibiotics to treat animal diseases.
CSIRO Animal Health has started two research projects on the proteins, called bacteriocins, with the aim of identifying some that will kill bacteria that cause common diseases in chickens and pigs.
The research is being funded by the Pig Research and Development Corporation (PRDC) and the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation's Chicken Meat Program, along with CSIRO.
CSIRO Animal Health Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics Program Manager, Dr Adrian Hodgson, says researchers in other organisations have looked at the use of bacteriocins to create safe food packaging and assist in food preservation.
"This is the first time that the use of bacteriocins to fight disease will be researched. If we are successful, we will have an alternative to antibiotics for at least some animal diseases," says Dr Hodgson.
Dr Hodgson says the major advantage of using bacteriocins in this way is that it will reduce the risk of human pathogens becoming resistant to antibiotics. Bacteriocins will also be quickly broken down by animals, so that there will be no residues in meat.
"Our strategy will be to first identify known bacteriocins that are useful in fighting off bacterial diseases of pigs and chickens. We will then investigate how these could be delivered to treat or even prevent these diseases," he says.
Another aim of the research projects will be to consider how to reduce the risk of bacteria developing resistance against bacteriocins.
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