Lactic acid bacteria are a critical group of bacteria utilized in food fermentation. They play a key role in the fermentation process itself, and in inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria. Without them, we wouldn't have such food products as yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles and cheese. Lactic acid bacteria are also an important source of vitamin K2, a fat-soluble vitamin which is a necessary part of our diet; it plays a key role in preventing blood clotting, regulating bone metabolism, and heart health.
At LMG, our research interests mainly encompass lactic acid bacteria used in the production of dairy products, for example cheese production. One of the challenges faced in the dairy industry is maintaining product quality, as lactic acid bacteria are highly susceptible to attack by viruses known as bacteriophages. We investigate the types of bacteriophages affecting dairy processes, including bacteriophage strain and diversity.
In addition, we develop methods for the early detection of bacteriophages, and methods to prevent attacks by bacteriophages that are detrimental to product quality. To do so we use techniques such as DNA sequence-based microbiome and virome analyses.
Our ongoing research aims to optimize vitamin K2 production in dairy products through lactic acid fermentation. We are also involved in clinical trials to investigate the health effects of vitamin K2 rich cheese. Our work is done in close collaboration with TINE, Norway's largest dairy company.