WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — For pregnant women, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems, listeriosis is a serious foodborne illness often linked to deli meats, fresh produce and dairy products. Even with antibiotic treatment, listeriosis is fatal for about 20 percent of patients, resulting in thousands of deaths annually.
Purdue University’s Arun Bhunia, a professor of food science, and postdoctoral researcher Rishi Drolia have developed a probiotic that could prevent infections in at-risk populations. A bioengineered version of Lactobacillus, a bacterium common in the human gut, can block the pathway the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria use to cross intestinal wall cells into the bloodstream, his team reports in the journal Nature Communications.
“The Lactobacillus bacteria we developed seeks out the same proteins as Listeria monocytogenes in the gut. When it attaches, it blocks the roadway for Listeria,” Bhunia said. “This could be included in probiotic yogurts, capsules or gummies and used as a preventive measure to treat people who are at high risk of infection.”