Resource Efficient Innovations Database (REID)

Improving antimicrobial nisin performance

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Improving antimicrobial nisin performance
A nanoparticle that can hold and release antimicrobial agents to extend shelf-life of products as risk from Listeria monocytogenes
In Development – This is ongoing Research and Development work.

Product Waste Reduction, Shelf life extension

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Relevant Materials

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Flexible & Films

Supply Chain Phase
Raw materials / Ingredients


Researchers at Purdue University in the US (research funded by the US Department of Agriculture and the National Science Foundation) have developed a nanoparticle that can hold and release an antimicrobial agent that could be sprayed directly onto food or packaging to extend the shelf life of products at risk from Listeria monocytogenes.
The team has pioneered a technique which allows a nanoparticle to attract and hold nisin, which has strong antibacterial properties. The researchers altered the surface of phytoglycen, a carbohydrate found in sweet corn, which led to the creation of several forms of a nanoparticle. The nanoparticle can then safeguard the food-based peptide nisin for up to three weeks, combating Listeria, a potentially fatal foodborne pathogen found in meats, dairy and vegetables.
Nisin has been used as an antimicrobial agent for a number of years, but it is depleted quickly in a food system. The nanoparticle is an improved way to deliver the antimicrobial properties of nisin for extended use. The scientists employed two strategies to draw nisin to the phytoglycogen nanopoarticles. The first involved negatively charging the surface of the nanoparticle and using electrostatic activity to attract the positively charged nisin molecules. The other method saw the creation of a partially hydrophobic condition on the surface of the nanoparticle - which triggers a reaction with partially hydrophobic nisin molecules. When the particles are hydrophobic, or repel water, they become attracted to each other.
Both strategies may work together to allow nanoparticles to attract and stabilise nisin, thereby reducing the depletion of nisin in various systems to counteract the Listeria. A solution containing the required balance of nanoparticles and free nisin could be sprayed onto foods or included in packaging. Based on work carried out in the lab, the team estimates that a sufficient amount of nisin to combat Listeria could be preserved for up to 21 days. When the amount of free nisin is reduced, it will trigger a release of more nisin from the nanoparticles to re-establish the equilibrium. Overall, there will be a substantial amount of nisin preserved.
The research team is also working to develop other food-based antimicrobial peptides and nano-constructs to combat Listeria other foodborne pathogens such as E. coli O157:H7 and salmonella.

Potential Benefits

The potential benefit offered by this type of technology is reduced food degradation and hence extended shelf-life, potentially leading to less food waste in the supply chain and in the home.

Intellectual Property

The research work is published in the Journal of Controlled Release.
Designing carbohydrate nanoparticles for prolonged efficacy of antimicrobial peptide, Original Research Article, Journal of Controlled Release, In Press, Uncorrected Proof, Available online 27 November 2010. Lin Bi, Lei Yang, Ganesan Narsimhan, Arun K. Bhunia, Yuan Yao

Consultant View

The use of nanoparticles in direct contact with foodstuffs is a controversial issue. Assurances and evidence of the safety of the nanoparticles would be required to implement any solutions based on this approach. Even with these assurances, consumers may resist this type of technology.

Contacts and Further Information

Company details:
Purdue University
Department of Food Science
West Lafayette, IN 47907
Tel: +(765) 494-4600

Technology contact details:
Yuan Yao (Assistant professor of food science)
Tel.: + 1 765 494 6317

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