New light-based tech to tackle antimicrobial resistance in food

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

The light-based tech from Biovitae can kill foodborne diseases without the use of chemicals, it claims. Image: Biovitae
The light-based tech from Biovitae can kill foodborne diseases without the use of chemicals, it claims. Image: Biovitae

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A new technology that uses light to kill harmful bacteria is being tested by researchers at the University of Birmingham to see how effective it is for tackling common foodborne diseases.

Developed by Italian translational research company Biovitae, the technology uses light at specific wavelengths within the visible spectrum to which microbes are known to be sensitive. Thanks to the light being within the visible spectrum, it can be incorporated into lightbulbs and continuously sanitise and entire room.

Biovitae worked with the university to investigate how effective the technology is in killing bacteria including E coli and Listeria. Preliminary results were presented at a conference at the company’s headquarters on Tuesday (28 May).

Sustainable solution

The team demonstrated how the technology provided a significant reduction in populations of harmful bacteria on different surfaces including both glass and stainless steel. It suggested the light has potential to offer a non-chemical, sustainable solution for improving food safety and public health.

Dr Helen Onyeaka, associate professor of food microbiology and deputy director of the Birmingham Institute of Sustainability and Climate Action, said: “The rise of antimicrobial resistance poses a severe threat to global health. Our research with Biovitae visible light technology presents a promising, sustainable solution to reduce microbial contamination.”

Commenting on the collaboration, Biovitae chief executive hoped the technology could offer an active and sustainable contribution to the fight against antimicrobial resistance.

Combating pathogens

Dr Taghi Miri, assistant professor of sustainable food processing in chemical engineering at the University of Birmingham, added: “This technology not only supports better hygiene practices but also aligns with sustainability goals by offering a non-chemical method to combat pathogens effectively.”​ 

Antimicrobial resistance is when bacteria adapt to become resistant to the killing effects of antimicrobials, such as antibiotics. This resistance subsequently makes such infections in humans difficult to treat with drugs.

Last year, the Food Standards Agency reported that global antimicrobial use in animals could increase by 8% by 2030​ if stronger restrictions aren’t applied worldwide.

Meanwhile, scientists have found that refrigerating lettuce can significantly reduce the risk of E.coli contamination.

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