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The spice of life: Antibody cocktail targets deadly foodborne germs

NEW ORLEANS, March 23 In the future, consumers may be adding a powerful "spice" to their food that could save lives. Researchers in Canada are developing a natural antibody cocktail that can help prevent the most common foodborne germs, including E. coli and Salmonella, which cause thousands to become sick or die each year in this country.

Derived from freeze-dried egg yolk, the substance is nicknamed a spice because it can be sprinkled or sprayed onto meats, fruits and vegetables to complement existing sanitation protocols. The so-called spice does not alter the taste of food.

Food contamination is on the rise in this country and is increasingly seen as a possible means of bioterrorism. One of the pathogens cited by the World Health Organization as a possible agent of bioterrorism is Salmonella, which this spice could protect against, the researchers say.

Research on the compound, which appears promising in early animal tests, was described today at the 225th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

"This spice represents a safe, easy and inexpensive way to enhance your protection against deadly germs that attack humans via food. One day, it will be found in everyone's spice cabinet," says Hoon Sunwoo, Ph.D., chief investigator in the study and a food chemist at the University of Alberta in Canada.

"This spice does not kill the germs, but prevents them from infecting your body," says Sunwoo. The antibody can remain active one to two hours after being ingested. "That buys precious time that can help keep you alive," he adds.

As with the flu vaccine, hens are injected with specific foodborne pathogens, such as E. Coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Staphyloccoccus and Listeria. The animals then develop antibodies, called IgY (immunoglobulin Y), to these pathogens as their immune system attempts to attack
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23-Mar-2003


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