An egg is many things. It is a versatile food but also an efficient source of bioactive compounds. Jaakko Hiidenhovi, a researcher at Luke Natural Resources Institute Finland, discovered in his doctoral research that fractions isolated from the ovomucin protein in egg white can inhibit virus growth. His dissertation is being examined at the University of Turku on 8 May 2015.
Eggs are one of the most versatile foods because of their rich nutrient content, and their functional properties can be widely leveraged in the food industry.
"However, a hen does not lay eggs to produce excellent human food but to create new life, chicks. This is why eggs contain many bioactive components. Eggs are a potential source of raw material for all kinds of new applications in the food, pharmaceutical, cosmetics and biotechnology industries," says Jaakko Hiidenhovi.
One of the potentially useful compounds is ovomucin, a protein in egg white that maintains its gel-like structure. Hiidenhovi discovered in his research at Luke that preparations of ovomucin created using physical and enzymatic methods inhibited the growth of viruses that cause bird flu and Newcastle disease. In his doctoral research, he created a simple and quick method to isolate ovomucin from egg white, whereas many other methods require 1-2 days.
Promising laboratory results, but further use requires more research
Both viruses are pathogens that cause considerable losses to poultry production every year. Also, the transmission of the bird flu virus from poultry to humans remains a major concern in health care.
"Any substance that can inhibit the growth of bird flu virus in particular merits further research," says Hiidenhovi.
He says that while the laboratory results are promising, more detailed research is required in both animal and human models, for instance to explore the physiological mechanisms more closely.
"Although the methods used in my research are simple and acceptable for food production, transposing them to an industrial scale will be a challenge," says Hiidenhovi.
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