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Safe use of genetically modified lactic acid bacteria in food: Bridging the gap between consumers, green groups, and industry

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      Abstract

      Within the European Union (EU), the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food production is not widely applied and accepted. In contrast to the United States of America, the current EU legislation limits the introduction of functional foods derived from GMOs that may bring a clear benefit to the consumer. Genetically modified lactic acid bacteria (GM-LAB) can be considered as a different class of GMOs, and the European Union is preparing regulations for the risk assessment of genetically modified microorganisms. Since these procedures are not yet implemented, the current risk assessment procedure is shared for GMOs derived from micro organisms, plants, or animals. At present, the use of organisms in food production that have uncontrolled genetic alterations made through random mutagenesis, is permitted, while similar applications with organisms that have controlled genetic alterations are not allowed. The current paper reviews the opportunities that genetically modified lactic acid bacteria may offer the food industry and the consumer. An objective risk profile is described for the use of GM-LAB in food production. To enhance the introduction of functional foods with proven health claims it is proposed to adapt the current safety assessment procedures for (GM)-LAB and suggestions are made for the related cost accountability. A qualified presumption of safety as proposed by SANCO (<a href="#36">EU SANCO 2003</a>), based on taxonomy and on the history of safe use of LAB applied in food, could in the near future be applied to any kind of LAB or GM-LAB provided that a series of modern profiling methods are used to verify the absence of unintended effects of altered LAB that may cause harm to the health of the consumer.

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      Horizontal gene transfer as a biosafety issue: a natural phenomenon of public concern.

      The transfer of genetic information between distantly or even unrelated organisms during evolution had been inferred from nucleotide sequence comparisons. These studies provided circumstantial evidence that in rare cases genes had been laterally transmitted amongst organisms of the domains bacteria, archaea and eukarya. Laboratory-based studies confirmed that the gene pools of the various domains of organisms are linked. Amongst the bacterial gene exchange mechanisms transduction, transformation and conjugation, the latter was identified as the mechanism with potentially the broadest host range of transfer. Previously, the issue of horizontal gene transfer has become important in the context of biosafety. Gene transfer studies carried out under more natural conditions such as in model ecosystems or in the environment established that all gene transfer mechanisms worked under these conditions. Moreover, environmental hot-spots were identified where favourable conditions such as nutrient enrichment increased the probability of genetic exchange among bacteria. In particular, the phytosphere was shown to provide conducive conditions for conjugative gene exchange. Concern has been expressed that transfer of recombinant DNA (e.g. antibiotic resistance genes) from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) such as transgenic plants to phytosphere bacteria may occur and thus contribute to the undesirable spread of antibiotic resistance determinants. Studies which were performed to address this issue clearly showed that such a transfer occurs, if at all, at extremely low frequency.
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        Genetically modified Streptococcus mutans for the prevention of dental caries.

        There are many examples of positive and negative interactions between different species of bacteria inhabiting the same ecosystem. This observation provides the basis for a novel approach to preventing microbial diseases called replacement therapy. In this approach, a harmless effector strain is permanently implanted in the host's microflora. Once established, the presence of the effector strain prevents the colonization or outgrowth of a particular pathogen. In the case of dental caries, replacement therapy has involved construction of an effector strain called BCS3-L1, which was derived from a clinical Streptococcus mutans isolate. Recombinant DNA technology was used to delete the gene encoding lactate dehydrogenase in BCS3-L1 making it entirely deficient in lactic acid production. This effector strain was also designed to produce elevated amounts of a novel peptide antibiotic called mutacin 1140 that gives it a strong selective advantage over most other strains of S. mutans. In laboratory and rodent model studies, BCS3-L1 was found to be genetically stable and to produce no apparent deleterious side effects during prolonged colonization. BCS3-L1 was significantly less cariogenic than wild-type S. mutans in gnotobiotic rats, and it did not contribute at all to the cariogenic potential of the indigenous flora of conventional Sprague-Dawley rats. And, its strong colonization properties indicated that a single application of the BCS3-L1 effector strain to human subjects should result in its permanent implantation and displacement over time of indigenous, disease-causing S. mutans strains. Thus, BCS3-L1 replacement therapy for the prevention of dental caries is an example of biofilm engineering that offers the potential for a highly efficient, cost effective augmentation of conventional prevention strategies. It is hoped that the eventual success of replacement therapy for the prevention of dental caries will stimulate the use of this approach in the prevention of other bacterial diseases.
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          Genetically modified bacteria in agriculture.

           N Amarger (2002)
          Certain bacteria isolated from soils possess properties that allow them to exert beneficial effects on plants either by enhancing crop nutrition or by reducing damages caused by pathogens or pests. Some of them, such as rhizobia, azospirilla, and agrobacteria, have been traditionally released in fields as seed inoculants and they often lead to increases in the yield of different crops while the application of others, such as pseudomonads, often fails to give the expected results. Bacteria genetically modified to be easily traceable and/or to be improved in their expression of beneficial traits have been constructed and released with plants in a number of experimental field plots. With these releases, it has been possible to monitor the modified inoculant bacteria after their introduction in field ecosystems and to assess their impact on the resident microflora. Local environmental factors appeared as playing a crucial role in the survival and persistence of bacteria once released in fields and in the expression of the beneficial traits whether improved or not. The spread of inoculant bacteria from their point of dissemination was limited. Transient shifts in favour of the released bacteria and in disfavour of some members of the bacterial and fungal populations present in the plant rhizosphere might occur with certain released bacteria. The changes observed were, however, less important than those observed under usual agricultural practices. Gene transfer from resident population to introduced bacteria was detected in one case. The transconjugants were found only transiently in the phytosphere of plants but not in soils. No differences between the survival, spread, persistence in field and ecological impacts of genetically modified bacteria and of the corresponding unmodified parent strain could be detected.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ] Wageningen Centre for Food Sciences Netherlands
            [2 ] NIZO Food Research Netherlands
            [3 ] Wageningen University Netherlands
            Contributors
            Role: ND
            Role: ND
            Role: ND
            Role: ND
            Journal
            ejb
            Electronic Journal of Biotechnology
            Electron. J. Biotechnol.
            Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso and CONICYT (Valparaíso )
            0717-3458
            July 2006
            : 9
            : 4
            : 0
            S0717-34582006000400011
            10.4067/S0717-34582006000400011

            http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

            Product
            Product Information: SciELO Chile
            Categories
            BIOTECHNOLOGY & APPLIED MICROBIOLOGY

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