Research and teaching activities in our group focus on microorganisms with beneficial characteristics for food, human and animal health and on metabolic processes that support desired functions. We focus on a broad range of bioactivities, such as antimicrobial action, texture development, and nutritional and sensorial properties.
Biopreservation using protective cultures or metabolites produced by bacteria with GRAS or QPS status could be an alternative to chemical preservation, and is a growing area of interest in food production. Through many studies, we have gained a broad body of knowledge on several promising compounds, including bacteriocins produced by a diverse range of lactic acid bacteria, reuterin, and low molecular weight antifungal compounds.
As part of the multidisciplinary approach in our group, research activities include:
- screening, typing, phenotypic and molecular characterization of new strains isolated from natural environments and fermented foods;
- purification and biochemical characterization of antimicrobial metabolites in view of elucidating their modes of action;
- development of efficient fermentation technologies; and the development of applications using protective cultures to improve the quality and safety of foods.
We also biotechnologically exploit the trophic interplay of lactic acid bacteria and propionic acid bacteria for their antifungal action, the synthesis of vitamins (folate and vitamin B12) and the formation of texture-building molecules (exopolysaccharides). A novel protective co-culture consisting of Lactobacillus paracasei subsp. paracasei SM20 and Propionibacterium jensenii SM11 was developed for fungal inhibition in yoghurt and fermented milk products and transferred to industry. A fermentation ingredient of co-cultivated exopolysaccharide-producers Weissella and Propionibacterium added to bread dough yielded breads with anti-fungal properties and delayed staling. Our research also investigates safety issues, such as presence of antibiotic resistance genes in starter cultures and the formation of biogenic amines during food fermentations.