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Last Updated:  Monday, 31 March, 2003, 00:11 GMT 01:11 UK
Food bug battle gets spicy
Salmonella infections are growing in the UK
Adding spices laced with antibodies to your cooking could help protect against food poisoning bacteria, according to scientists.

The far-fetched sounding idea could prevent some of the millions of food poisoning cases around the world each year, hope its inventors.

Poor food storage and preparation can allow the spread of bacteria such as Salmonella, which, in sufficient numbers, can cause serious sickness.

The scientists, from the University of Alberta in Canada, have developed a food additive, derived from freeze-dried egg yolk, which could be sprinkled over a dish.

One day, it will be found in everybody's spice cabinet
Dr Hoon Sunwoo, University of Alberta
However, instead of flavourings, it contains antibodies - proteins generated by the body's immune system to help it hunt down invaders such as bacteria.

This would mean the body has a head start in fighting off a food poisoning bug.

Common bugs

Antibodies specific to E.coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Staphylococcus and Listeria can be mass produced by injecting the bugs into hens.

Their antibodies tend to accumulate in the yolk of their eggs.

Animal tests using the freeze-dried antibodies have proved encouraging, and researchers are hoping to start human experiments soon.

Dr Hoon Sunwoo, the lead researcher, said: "This 'spice' represents a safe, easy and inexpensive way to enhance your protection against germs that attack humans via food. One day, it will be found in everybody's spice cabinet.

"It does not kill the germs, but prevents them from infecting your body.

"The antibody can remain active one to two hours after being ingested - that buys precious time that can help keep you alive."

He suggested that the food additive might be particularly useful for travellers buying food of questionable origin abroad.

It is hoped that antibodies against viruses could also be mass-produced in egg yolk.

The research was presented at the meeting of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans.

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