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For thousands of years, bacteria that produce lactic acid have been used for pickling vegetables, baking, making wine, and curing fish, meats and sausages. By fermenting sugars into lactic acid, these 'friendly' bacteria play an essential role in the production of such foods as cheese, yogurt, sourdough bread, and salami.

Lactobacillus casei

Oenococcus oeni

In addition, lactic acid bacteria are 'good' germs that boost the human immune system and keep harmful bugs at bay. These residents of our digestive systems contribute to the health and balance of the intestinal tract.

A consortium of scientists supported by the US Department of Energy has now sequenced the genomes of eleven lactic acid bacteria, including one that adds flavor and aroma to wine (Oenococcus oeni). The scientists compared notes recently at a meeting in Walnut Creek, California, hoping to better understand how these bacteria ferment sugars. The results could benefit lovers of wine and cheese.

Pediococcus pentosaceus

Lactobacillus bulgaricus


See related GNN article
»Friendly tenants in the human gut: The genome of B. longum

Birgit Reinert

Researchers to toast 'good' bacteria: JGI 'jamboree' will examine genomes of lactic acid-producing microbes. Press release, DOE/Joint Genome Institute, Walnut Creek, California (October 3, 2002).

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