Prepared Foods September 6, 2004 enewsletter

Korean scientists have developed technology that can extract an antibiotic from kimchi, the nation's well-known side dish of pickled cabbage.

Kang Sa-ouk, a microbiology professor at Seoul National University, and his research team announced they have found a method that enables mass production of antimicrobial peptides by cultivating Pediococcus pentosaceus, lactic ferments from kimchi, in vegetable containers. The research was sponsored by the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Kang's research team completed a draft of the genome of pentosaceus separated from kimchi, with venture companies such as Cellbiotech and Green Gene Biotech. The research team explained that in the process of analyzing genetic information of the lactic ferments (Pediococcus pentosaceus) from kimchi, they could discover the existence of a unique antibiotic called Pediocin, an antimicrobial peptide secreted by Pediococcus pentosaceus.

The research team claimed that the culture fluid of pentosaceus can prevent and eliminate harmful bacilli, including Helicobacter, the cause of gastritis, and Listeria, and Shigella sonnei, which cause food poisoning.

''As the antibiotic substance from the food is nontoxic and safe for human bodies, the antibiotics extracted from kimchi heightens the possibility of inventing a new medical cure that can replace the current antibiotics which have the problems of being toxic and resistant,'' said Kang.

''This will help solve major problems of the food industry regarding food poisoning and the handling of antiseptic substances and antibiotics,'' he added.

However, according to the research team, it will take some time for the new antibiotic to be approved for medical use for the general public.

''We will go through additional research in order for people to use the substance for medical purposes. It is expected to take at least five years,'' Kang said.

The germ-killing agent can also be used to produce safer preservatives for foods and animal feed.

The research team will file for a patent on the technology with the government. They will apply for an international patent after obtaining domestic protection.