Scientists at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) An antibacterial enzyme found in human tears and other body fluids could be applied to certain foods for protection against intentional contamination with anthrax, scientists reported here today .
"Data from this study could be used in developing safer foods for human consumption," said Saeed A. Khan, Ph.D. "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. Lysozyme was discovered in 1922 by Alexander Fleming during the search for antibiotics that eventually led to penicillin. A drop of mucus (which contains lysozyme) from Fleming's nose fell into a culture dish of bacteria. Much to his surprise, it killed the bacteria. Since then, scientists have shown that lysozyme has far-reaching roles in protecting against disease-causing microbes. Found in many body fluids, it sometimes is called "the body's own antibiotic." In breast milk, for instance, lysozyme protects infants from certain infections. The whites of hens' eggs have large amounts of the enzyme to protect the developing chick from infections.
"Based on our results, it looks like that lysozyme could be used to either slow down or prevent the growth of an avirulent form of the bacterium Bacillus anthracis that causes anthrax," Khan said. "More research is needed on other types of foods, including ground beef, milk, fruit juices, and vegetables."