Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Thalassospira frigidphilosprofundus: A new species of bacteria living 1200 metres deep at freezing temperatures in the Bay of Bengal is all set to solve the universal problem of lactose intolerance in human beings

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad:  A new species of bacteria living 1200 metres deep
at freezing temperatures in the Bay of Bengal is all set to solve the
universal problem of lactose intolerance in human beings. Lactose is a
type of sugar present in milk and two-thirds of people around the
world cannot digest it, resulting in gastric problems including loose
motions. Children and the elderly are more prone to lactose intolerance.

Researchers from the department of biotechnology, Acharya Nagarjuna
University, Guntur, discovered the novel species of Thalassospira
bacteria while analyzing the samples of deep marine waters collected
as part of Sagar Kanya Expedition in the Bay of Bengal.  The team
comprised KR Sambasiva Rao, Pulicherla Krishna Kanth, M Ghosh, VP
Rekha, and PK Raja.

“The water samples contained bacteria producing cold active
beta-galactosidase and pectinase enzymes. It was a novel species of
Thalassospira genus, and we named it as Thalassospira
frigidphilosprofundus,” Dr Sambasiva Rao and Dr Krishna Kanth told
this correspondent.

The bacterium secretes an enzyme called beta-glactosidase that helps
in hydrolysis or nullifying the milk sugar lactose. The
lactose-breaking enzyme obtained from this bacterium works at normal
temperatures while the commercially available beta-glactosidase
currently used in dairy and infant food industry works at chilling
temperatures. It is a psychrophile (low temperature loving) and
harmless while those used by dairy units are classified as mesophiles
(moderate temperature loving). Incidentally, mesophilic pathogens
include those that cause typhoid and other harmful diseases.

Dr Sambasiva Rao and Dr Krishna Kanth said in the treatment of milk
temperature is the most important condition as it avoids non-enzymatic
browning of products that form at higher temperatures. It also
maintains the quality of the diary products. Ideal beta-galactosidase
should be active at pH 6.7 to 6.8 and at 4 to 8 degrees Celsius during
processing, shipping and long-time storage of milk. The beta-lactamase
produced by this new bacterium meets these conditions and is highly
cost effective.

The Bay of Bengal abounds in marine biodiversity and Indian scientists
are busy discovering sea organisms that could help in development of
new drugs and dietary sources. Many of the organisms present in the
Bay play a key role in the dairy, fruit, and other food industries,
besides chemical processing, textile, medical and pharmaceutical units.

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