Bruce Seal, research leader for the ARS Poultry Microbiological Safety Research Unit in Athens, is directing his group in the area of reducing foodborne bacterial pathogens like Campylobacter and Salmonella. These organisms can potentially sicken people who eat undercooked or cross-contaminated food. The scientists are continuing work spearheaded by ARS microbiologist Norman Stern, who was awarded two patent applications relating to bacteriocins, low-molecular-weight polypeptides that kill competing organisms. Stern was the first ARS researcher to travel to Russia for scientific collaboration under the OIRP-led program.
Bacteriocins were purified and tested on broiler chickens challenged and colonized with either Salmonella or Campylobacter, but Stern focused his endeavors on Campylobacter. The work was completed in collaboration with Edward Svetoch, a Russian Federation scientist at the State Research Center for Applied Microbiology in Obolensk.
Svetoch and Stern evaluated tens of thousands of bacterial isolates from poultry-production environments. They have found anti-Campylobacter activity in several organisms and have published their findings on Bacilluscirculans and Paenibacilluspolymyxa.

To find the promising bacteriocins, Stern, Svetoch, and colleagues started by examining more than 25,000 bacterial isolates, narrowed the focus to 365 isolates, and found a few that combat Campylobacter. Dozens of bacteriocins are still being analyzed for efficacy against Campylobacter. As a result of this research, Stern and his fellow researchers have applied for several patents.
“This work has confirmed that bacteriocins can reduce Campylobacter to nearly undetectable levels in the intestines of chickens, and that means less human exposure to this pathogen,” says Stern.
“Recently, we have successfully enhanced production of bacteriocins, which will make it much more attractive for industrial testing. There has been substantial interest by industry to license the technology. The work we’ve done with bacteriocins suggests they might someday be used as an alternative to antibiotics.
“A lot of work has been done in 5 years, and we hope that bacteriocins can be widely used in the poultry industry and then expanded to domestic animals.”
Stern emphasizes that the research was a collaborative effort. “Our Russian counterparts provided a great deal of support by employing 24 scientists to generate and compile data for this work.”
The team’s research proved to be the entrÈe to more collaborative work. For example, food technologist Eric Line and microbiologist Greg Siragusa, at the Richard B. Russell Research Center in Athens, are also funded to expand research with Russian Federation collaborators.

International Partnership for Poultry Safety

Poultry science is, as is all agriculture, a global enterprise. So ARS scientists in Athens, Georgia, have launched a host of collaborations with scientists from the former Soviet Union to further advance research in food safety and health of poultry.
Scientific organizations from the former Soviet Union involved in this and other collaborative endeavors with the United States previously conducted biological weapons research. Through funding and coordination by the Department of State, the Moscow-based International Science and Technology Center (ISTC), and ARS’s Office of International Research Programs (OIRP), several teams are collaborating with their Russian Federation and Kazakhstan counterparts on various projects, including one to develop and assess bacteriocins to combat Campylobacter and Salmonella, one to address the global issue of avian influenza, and another to characterize new avian influenza and Newcastle disease virus isolates and develop vaccines by using new techniques.
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