A research team at Washington State University have found that a compound in garlic is 100 times more effective than two popular antibiotics at fighting the Camplobacter bacterium, one of the most common causes of intestinal illness.
The discovery opens the door to new treatments for raw and processed meats and food preparation surfaces.
According to one of the lead researchers of the study Xiaonan Lu, "This work is very exciting to me because it shows that this compound has the potential to reduce disease-causing bacteria in the environment and in our food supply."
It is suggested that Campylobacter is one of the most common bacterial causes of food-borne illness in the United States and probably the world. Some 2.4 million Americans are affected every year, according to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with symptoms including diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain and fever.
Most infections stem from eating raw or undercooked poultry or foods that have been cross-contaminated via surfaces or utensils used to prepare poultry.Lu and his colleagues looked at the ability of the garlic-derived compound, diallyl sulfide to kill the bacterium when it is protected by a slimy biofilm that makes it 1,000 times more resistant to antibiotics than the free floating bacterial cell. They found the compound can easily penetrate the protective biofilm and kill bacterial cells by combining with a sulfur-containing enzyme, subsequently changing the enzyme's function and effectively shutting down cell metabolism.
However, "diallyl sulfide may be useful in reducing the levels of the Campylobacterin in the environment and to clean industrial food processing equipment, as the bacterium is found in a biofilm in both settings," he said.
"Diallyl sulfide could make many foods safer to eat," said Barbara Rasco, a co-author on all three recent papers and Lu's advisor for his doctorate in food science. "It can be used to clean food preparation surfaces and as a preservative in packaged foods like potato and pasta salads, coleslaw and deli meats.
This would not only extend shelf life but it would also reduce the growth of potentially bad bacteria," she said.
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Phys Org "Love That Garlic" Fresh May Be Healthier Than Bottled"
Science Daily, "Garlic Compound Fights Food Borne Illness Better Than Antibiotics"