The United States Patent and Trademark Office has issued two separate patents to Dr. Ronald E. Worthington, associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences. The two related inventions, “Bacteriocin Based Methods to Control Lactic Acid Bacterial Growth,” (U.S. Patent No. 8,563,293) and “Bacteriophage Derived Methods to Control Lactic Acid Bacterial Growth,” (U.S. Patent No. 8,679,821) utilize natural antibiotics to prevent the bacterial contamination that can occur in industrial production operations when lactic acid forms. Such contamination has proven a problem as bacterial resistance to antibiotics increases.
According to Worthington, commercial applications for both patents include use in the ethanol biofuel industry and beverage alcohol production, where lactic acid bacteria contamination can damage yields and profits. Worthington’s first patent prevents contamination by employing synthetic genes which inhibit damaging bacteria. The second focuses on developing a microbial population in the host that destroys bacteria. This second patent includes claims for synthetic genes for the natural protein native nisin. According to Worthington, his study was the first to find that nisin as a native peptide contains antimicrobial activity.
“The bacteria that can become resistant to antibiotic drugs are in many cases the same bacteria that inhabit our digestive tract and serve a probiotic, healthy function,” Worthington said. “That poses a health risk, just like antibiotic resistance in any other setting. The inventions inherent in both of these patents focus on attacking this problem. In essence, we engineered artificial genes to make proteins that are not resistant to current pharmaceutical drugs.”