Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Hazard to world health reduced by Aspergillus

Aspergillus is especially useful for the industrial production of many substances: proteins, enzymes, vitamins and other chemicals as it can be engineered to produce substances in large quantities.

Acrylamide gel being used for DNA sequencingAcrylamide is a highly toxic chemical that is used to form gels useful for many purposes in the laboratory. It was also discovered to be present in fried and baked foods in 2002 and due to its toxicity (carcinogenic and neurotoxic) has been the subject of health campaigns to warn people of the dangers of overheating and overcooking food at high temperatures.

Potato chipsSafe levels of acrylamide are not easy to provide and the wide range of possible sources (i.e. many foods regularly eaten across the world) make this a difficult problem.

It should also be noted that these foods have been in common use in many parts of the world for a long time - this is not a new health risk.

One solution is to treat all at risk foods with an enzyme (acrylamide reducing enzymes) that reduces the amount of acrylamide in those foods. Two such commercial products are emerging; Acrylaway, produced by Novozymes using Aspergillus and PreventAse, an acrylamide-reducing enzyme derived from Aspergillus niger.

Use of these products and others like them should help reduce the risk of acrylamide poisoning for everyone.

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