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Microorganisms in EVOO May Lead to New Applications

Microorganisms found in low concentrations in extra virgin olive oil could lead to new possibilities in biotechnology.

Mar. 6, 2020
By Paolo DeAndreis

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While it is known that difĀ­ferĀ­ent microorĀ­ganĀ­isms thrive in extra virĀ­gin olive oil, many went undeĀ­tected until now and some may lead to improved olive oil proĀ­ducĀ­tion pracĀ­tices and new kinds of prodĀ­ucts.

New research from a team of microĀ­biĀ­olĀ­oĀ­gists at the University of Sassari, in Sardinia, described extra virĀ­gin olive oil as a rich basin of bacĀ­teĀ­rĀ­ial bioĀ­diĀ­verĀ­sity. Among the potenĀ­tial uses for these microorĀ­ganĀ­isms are in the creĀ­ation of proĀ­biĀ­otic-enriched foods and agriĀ­culĀ­tural biotechĀ­nolĀ­ogy prodĀ­ucts.

Extra virĀ­gin olive oil is an extreme enviĀ­ronĀ­ment, the bacĀ­teĀ­ria that live there could easĀ­ily surĀ­vive elseĀ­where, which means that they could be adopted in sevĀ­eral fields of appliĀ­caĀ­tion.- Serevino Zara, a microĀ­biĀ­olĀ­oĀ­gist at the University of Sassar

ā€œWe observed sevĀ­eral species of microorĀ­ganĀ­isms in extra virĀ­gin olive oil and found that their qualĀ­ity and quanĀ­tity varies from variĀ­ety to variĀ­ety,ā€ Serevino Zara, one of the nine researchers involved in the study, told Olive Oil Times.

The researchers examĀ­ined bacĀ­teĀ­ria in oil proĀ­duced in a conĀ­trolled enviĀ­ronĀ­ment from 15 difĀ­ferĀ­ent olive trees variĀ­eties, among them Frantoio, Coratina, Bosana and Semidana.

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While preĀ­viĀ­ous research studĀ­ied the presĀ­ence of bacĀ­teĀ­ria, their conĀ­cenĀ­traĀ­tion was often below the limĀ­its of detecĀ­tion by stanĀ­dard culĀ­ture methĀ­ods. Through adoptĀ­ing new techĀ­niques, sciĀ­enĀ­tists are now able to evalĀ­uĀ­ate these bacĀ­teĀ­ria conĀ­cenĀ­traĀ­tions.

ā€œAs expected, we found fewer difĀ­ferĀ­ent species of bacĀ­teĀ­ria in olive oils that are rich in polypheĀ­nols because of their antibacĀ­teĀ­rĀ­ial propĀ­erĀ­ties,ā€ Zara said. ā€‹ā€œExtra virĀ­gin olive oil is an extreme enviĀ­ronĀ­ment, the bacĀ­teĀ­ria that live there could easĀ­ily surĀ­vive elseĀ­where, which means that they could be adopted in sevĀ­eral fields of appliĀ­caĀ­tion.ā€

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He added that the oil proĀ­ducĀ­tion process impacts the quanĀ­tity and variĀ­ety of bacĀ­teĀ­ria in the final prodĀ­uct.

ā€œWe first looked for the microorĀ­ganĀ­isms in the olives, then in the folĀ­lowĀ­ing steps of the transĀ­forĀ­maĀ­tion process and after that in the proĀ­duced olive oil,ā€ Zara explained.

The quanĀ­tity of bacĀ­teĀ­ria detected decreased after each step in the process, but sevĀ­eral types of microorĀ­ganĀ­isms still thrived in the final prodĀ­uct.

Among the foreĀ­seeĀ­able appliĀ­caĀ­tions for the research is the use of the proĀ­biĀ­otics found in the samĀ­ples. This hints at the posĀ­siĀ­bilĀ­ity of proĀ­ducĀ­ing a new range of prodĀ­ucts, includĀ­ing proĀ­biĀ­otic extra virĀ­gin olive oil, which could appeal to those who usuĀ­ally turn to proĀ­biĀ­otic dairy prodĀ­ucts.

ā€œOther microorĀ­ganĀ­isms found in extra virĀ­gin olive oil could trigĀ­ger new more effiĀ­cient biotechĀ­noloĀ­gies for the enviĀ­ronĀ­ment restoraĀ­tion operĀ­aĀ­tions, both on land and sea, because of their abilĀ­ity to digest indusĀ­trial oils and transĀ­form them into comĀ­pounds that can be absorbed by the enviĀ­ronĀ­ment withĀ­out furĀ­ther damĀ­age,ā€ Zara said.

Researchers also found some eviĀ­dence of antibiĀ­otic resisĀ­tance in some bacĀ­teĀ­ria, a natĀ­ural occurĀ­rence that was invesĀ­tiĀ­gated because of the relĀ­eĀ­vance of the matĀ­ter on pubĀ­lic health.

Bacterial conĀ­cenĀ­traĀ­tion in extra virĀ­gin olive oil desĀ­tined for conĀ­sumpĀ­tion is so low that it does not repĀ­reĀ­sent any kind of threat to human health, but the speĀ­cific charĀ­acĀ­terĀ­isĀ­tics of the microorĀ­ganĀ­isms in those low conĀ­cenĀ­traĀ­tions could be used to develop new biotechĀ­noloĀ­gies.

ā€œSeveral microorĀ­ganĀ­isms could proĀ­ducĀ­tively be used as plant growth inducĀ­ers, for instance, and in such a case, it is quite relĀ­eĀ­vant to underĀ­stand how they could affect the biotechĀ­nolĀ­ogy prodĀ­uct and the plants themĀ­selves,ā€ Zara conĀ­cluded, hintĀ­ing that furĀ­ther research on extra virĀ­gin olive oil bacĀ­teĀ­ria was needed.





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