Korma or madras? Pasanda or vindaloo?
And what have your curry preferences got to do with the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance?
Luckily for you, the IntoBiology team has been finding out.
Get inside the science
Antimicrobial resistance is a growing problem in the UK and globally. Led by the Department of Health and Defra, the UK government has launched a UK five year Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy 2013 to 2018. They are funding UK scientists to develop new strategies to deal with antimicrobial resistance, including finding new compounds with antimicrobial effects.
At the same time, we often see claims in advertising and packaging that a wide range of products, both synthetic and natural, are antibacterial, antifungal or both. But how accurate are the manufacturers’ claims? Are consumers getting what they’ve asked for?
And how many natural plant products are still out there with unrecognised antibacterial or antifungal properties?
Plants are amazing chemical factories, churning out a huge range of chemicals to help them flourish and survive.
They are rich in a wide variety of secondary metabolites, such as tannins, terpenoids, alkaloids, and flavonoids, some of which have been found in vitro to have antimicrobial properties. Indeed, it’s been suggested that one of the reasons that human societies use herbs and spices in cooking is for their antimicrobial properties.
Are the spices that we love in curry there for our health, as well as our tastebuds?
Disc diffusion tests provide a simple and reliable method for you to test antibacterial or anti-yeast properties. Sterile discs of filter paper can be impregnated with standard quantities of the substance to be tested. They are then placed on a freshly spread lawn plate of the test organism. After incubation, the effectiveness of the substance is determined by measuring the area of inhibition of growth around the disc. See our step-by-step protocols below.
Find out more
- Why we need to combat antimicrobial resistance. A news item from the BBSRC, outlining why the UK government is prioritising attempts to overcome antimicrobial resistance.
- Why do plants produce chemicals? A brief article from the Open University, considering why plants produce compounds that humans find so beneficial.
- Plant Products as Antimicrobial Agents, Clinical Microbiology Reviews. 1999 Oct; 12(4): 564–582.
- Antimicrobial agents from plants: antibacterial activity of plant volatile oils, Dorman and Deans, Journal of Applied Microbiology, Volume 88, Issue 2, pages 308–316, February 2000. A research article reporting the antibacterial effects of plant oils from 6 different species frequently used as herbs or spices.
- Food bacteria-spice survey shows why some cultures like it hot, Cornell University, 5 March 1998. A news story based on a research article, outlining research suggesting that cultures may have developed a preference for spiced food for their antimicrobial properties.
- Why do we eat spicy food? In this entertaining blog post from the Chicago Council on Science and Technology, one scientist carries out a short experiment to investigate the effects of including spices in food.
Practical Investigations – step-by-step protocols
We’ve put together step-by-step protocols for you to use for a practical investigation on this topic.