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Title: Controlled Antibiotic use during Fuel Ethanol Production

item Bischoff, Kenneth
item Leathers, Timothy
item Liu, Siqing

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/1/2008
Publication Date: 4/1/2008
Citation: Bischoff, K.M., Scott, J., Leathers, T.D., Liu, S., Worthington, R. 2008. Controlled antibiotic use during fuel ethanol production [abstract]. National Science Foundation, Partnerships for Innovation Workshop. Poster No. 13.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The production of fuel ethanol from corn feedstock is a rapidly growing industry in the US. The ability to make a profit in ethanol production from corn is marginal, and depends heavily on the sale of byproducts of the fermentation process. The fermentation reaction is optimized for yeast growth and ethanol production, but these conditions are also ideal for the growth of lactic acid bacteria. Lactic acid bacteria are not only ubiquitous in the environment, but many species are commensal with humans and animals. Thus, the fuel ethanol production process is sometimes spoiled by these bacteria that divert carbohydrates to bacterial growth and produce deleterious end products that inhibit the growth of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. To prevent such production losses, producers add conventional antibiotics to the fermentation reactions. While effective, this practice is creating strains of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, which pose a major threat to both the ethanol industry, and to human health. We have developed polymerase chain reaction assays to detect bacterial contamination in ethanol fermentations. We have used these assays along with other methods of analysis to study the kinetics of spoilage using feedstock from a commercial ethanol production plant. This work provides fundamental information about the prevalence and nature of bacterial contamination in the commercial fermentation environment, and will help ethanol producers determine the most effective type of antibacterial intervention needed to control contamination problems. Ultimately, these studies should influence the fuel ethanol industry to use antibiotics only when necessary, and then to use alternative antibacterial agents in place of conventional drugs used in agriculture and medicine.