Researchers from The Netherlands have identified a protein in the digestive tract of chickens that may serve as an antimicrobial agent against food-borne pathogens. They report their findings in the March 2007 issue of the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.
Food-borne pathogens, responsible for most cases of food poisoning in developed countries, are commonly affiliated with poultry products including chicken. Therapeutic doses of antibiotics in chicken feed have been administered since the 1950s, but are now discouraged due to increasing rates of antibiotic resistance.
In the study researchers tested for B-defensin gallinacin-6 (Gal-6) protein expression in chickens and explored antimicrobial activity against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria as well as yeast. Researchers observed high expression of Gal-6 in the esophagus and crop and moderate expression in the glandular stomach. Colony-counting tests showed strong bactericidal activity against Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, Clostridium perfringens, and Escherichia coli, all major food-borne pathogens. Fungicidal activity was also noted. In a kill-curve study results showed treatment with Gal-6 reduced C. perfringens survival within sixty minutes.
“In conclusion, to our knowledge, this is the first report of a chicken B-defensin highly expressed in the digestive tract and displaying strong bactericidal activity against food-borne pathogens.” say the researchers.
(A. van Dijk, E.J.A. Veldhuizen, S.I.C. Kalkhove, J.L.M. Tjeerdsma-van Bokhoven, R.A. Romijn, H.P. Haagsman. 2006. The B-defensin gallinacin-6 is expressed in the chicken digestive tract and has antimicrobial activity against food-borne pathogens. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, 51. 3: 912-922.)
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