IFR’s research into foodborne diseases concentrates on bacteria - Salmonella, Campylobacter and Clostridium botulinum. Our deeper understanding of the fundamental biology and the behaviour of these pathogens (microbes that cause disease) within foods, allows our scientists to aid development of novel control strategies to reduce food-poisoning and protect the public. For example, using our improved mathematical models we are identifying the critical food safety ‘control points’ in production systems.
Understanding the scientific ‘rules’ that control how foods are constructed during manufacture, and how they are subsequently taken apart during digestion, is letting us design new approaches to foods that are safer and healthier as well as appetising.
Understanding our normal gut microbes will lead to the development of improved probiotics (preparations of bacteria and/or yeast that help improve how we digest food). Knowing how the body controls the growth and death of the cells in the gut wall will help us understand the development of cancers. By studying the gut immune system we can understand and control the triggers for allergic reactions to food, and may develop novel delivery methods for oral drugs and vaccines.
Understanding how Salmonella and Campylobacter survive and grow in the gut and inside the body’s cells can open new routes to the prevention and treatment of food borne disease – for example, identifying new targets for antimicrobial drugs and vaccines.
IFR has developed model gut systems to simulate digestion in the stomach, small intestine and colon. These will provide a greater understanding of how our gut interacts with food structures to deliver nutrients, and help us to deliver our vision for health promotion via the diet.
Phytochemicals (plant-derived chemical compounds )have potential as health-promoting components in our diets. The focus of research at IFR is on flavonoids (coloured compounds found in fruit, vegetables and red wine), folates (found in leafy vegetables, liver, Vegemite and Marmite)) and glucosinolates (compounds responsible for the ‘hot’ flavour in horseradish, Brussels sprouts etc) and their potential to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer in healthy individuals and high risk groups.
The provision of dietary advice to policy makers and the development of foods with enhanced levels of protective phytochemicals provide practical applications of the research.
Science+Innovation, the IFR's Newsletter reflects IFR's latest science discoveries, and demonstrates its economic impact