Microorganisms in EVOO May Lead to New Applications

Microorganisms found in low concentrations in extra virgin olive oil could lead to new possibilities in biotechnology.

Mar. 6, 2020
By Paolo DeAndreis

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While it is known that dif­fer­ent microor­gan­isms thrive in extra vir­gin olive oil, many went unde­tected until now and some may lead to improved olive oil pro­duc­tion prac­tices and new kinds of prod­ucts.

New research from a team of micro­bi­ol­o­gists at the University of Sassari, in Sardinia, described extra vir­gin olive oil as a rich basin of bac­te­r­ial bio­di­ver­sity. Among the poten­tial uses for these microor­gan­isms are in the cre­ation of pro­bi­otic-enriched foods and agri­cul­tural biotech­nol­ogy prod­ucts.

Extra vir­gin olive oil is an extreme envi­ron­ment, the bac­te­ria that live there could eas­ily sur­vive else­where, which means that they could be adopted in sev­eral fields of appli­ca­tion.- Serevino Zara, a micro­bi­ol­o­gist at the University of Sassar

We observed sev­eral species of microor­gan­isms in extra vir­gin olive oil and found that their qual­ity and quan­tity varies from vari­ety to vari­ety,” Serevino Zara, one of the nine researchers involved in the study, told Olive Oil Times.

The researchers exam­ined bac­te­ria in oil pro­duced in a con­trolled envi­ron­ment from 15 dif­fer­ent olive trees vari­eties, among them Frantoio, Coratina, Bosana and Semidana.

See Also: Research News

While pre­vi­ous research stud­ied the pres­ence of bac­te­ria, their con­cen­tra­tion was often below the lim­its of detec­tion by stan­dard cul­ture meth­ods. Through adopt­ing new tech­niques, sci­en­tists are now able to eval­u­ate these bac­te­ria con­cen­tra­tions.

As expected, we found fewer dif­fer­ent species of bac­te­ria in olive oils that are rich in polyphe­nols because of their antibac­te­r­ial prop­er­ties,” Zara said. Extra vir­gin olive oil is an extreme envi­ron­ment, the bac­te­ria that live there could eas­ily sur­vive else­where, which means that they could be adopted in sev­eral fields of appli­ca­tion.”

He added that the oil pro­duc­tion process impacts the quan­tity and vari­ety of bac­te­ria in the final prod­uct.

We first looked for the microor­gan­isms in the olives, then in the fol­low­ing steps of the trans­for­ma­tion process and after that in the pro­duced olive oil,” Zara explained.

The quan­tity of bac­te­ria detected decreased after each step in the process, but sev­eral types of microor­gan­isms still thrived in the final prod­uct.

Among the fore­see­able appli­ca­tions for the research is the use of the pro­bi­otics found in the sam­ples. This hints at the pos­si­bil­ity of pro­duc­ing a new range of prod­ucts, includ­ing pro­bi­otic extra vir­gin olive oil, which could appeal to those who usu­ally turn to pro­bi­otic dairy prod­ucts.

Other microor­gan­isms found in extra vir­gin olive oil could trig­ger new more effi­cient biotech­nolo­gies for the envi­ron­ment restora­tion oper­a­tions, both on land and sea, because of their abil­ity to digest indus­trial oils and trans­form them into com­pounds that can be absorbed by the envi­ron­ment with­out fur­ther dam­age,” Zara said.

Researchers also found some evi­dence of antibi­otic resis­tance in some bac­te­ria, a nat­ural occur­rence that was inves­ti­gated because of the rel­e­vance of the mat­ter on pub­lic health.

Bacterial con­cen­tra­tion in extra vir­gin olive oil des­tined for con­sump­tion is so low that it does not rep­re­sent any kind of threat to human health, but the spe­cific char­ac­ter­is­tics of the microor­gan­isms in those low con­cen­tra­tions could be used to develop new biotech­nolo­gies.

Several microor­gan­isms could pro­duc­tively be used as plant growth induc­ers, for instance, and in such a case, it is quite rel­e­vant to under­stand how they could affect the biotech­nol­ogy prod­uct and the plants them­selves,” Zara con­cluded, hint­ing that fur­ther research on extra vir­gin olive oil bac­te­ria was needed.


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