Scientists have pointed out that an antibacterial enzyme in human tears and other body fluids could offer protection against deliberate contamination with anthrax.
"Data from this study could be used in developing safer foods for human consumption," said Saeed A. Khan.
"The data from our study shows that lysozyme application has the potential to eliminate anthrax producing bacteria in processed foods."
Khan and colleagues knew from almost a century of lysozyme research that the enzyme kills certain bacteria. It does so by destroying bacteria cell walls, the rigid outer shell that provides a protective coating.
Found in many body fluids, lysozyme sometimes is called "the body's own antibiotic."
Khan and colleagues, who are with the National Center for Toxicological Research in Jefferson, Ark., used a surrogate bacterial strain that is considered as a stand-in for anthrax in their research because it behaves in more or less similar fashion as the actual anthrax strain, except that it does not cause the disease.
They studied the spore's survival in hens' egg white, and found that the lysozyme in egg white was very effective in killing anthrax spores.
Lysozyme also showed some activity in killing spores added to ground beef and milk.
Scientists reported the finding at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS).