Research Topics

The activity of the FDC group is split between the key research priorities at IPLA, which are framed in the Area of Dairy Science and Technology.

1. Microbial typing of traditional cheeses and design of starters
The pioneering activity of the FDC group started in 1996. Among other activities, the group has been involved in the microbial typing of Peñamellera, Cabrales and Casín cheeses. The aim of these studies is the isolation and identification of microorganisms with desirable technological properties, which can be used for the formulation of acidifying and/or maturing cultures.
Cabrales cheese (Fig. 1), with a PDO label since 1981, is one of the most famous Spanish traditional cheeses.

The specific cultures designed for this cheese (CAB-00) (Fig. 2) included autochthonous Lactococcus lactis strains that can stand the phage attack. The starter mixture is produced by the company Biogés Starters SA exclusively for the Regulatory Council of Cabrales PDO cheese.

Casín (Fig. 3) is a culinary gem of Asturias and one of the most original traditional Spanish cheeses. It also enjoys, since 2008, a PDO label.

2.- Microbiology of the human gastrointestinal tract and selection of probiotics.
In 2000 we started a new research topic centered on the microbial typing of the human gastrointestinal tract. Works on this area have led to the identification of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli strains with beneficial properties for the formulation of probiotics. Within this topic, now we are currently studying the modulation of intestinal microbial populations by soy isoflavones, with the aim of finding strains activating isoflavone-glycosides, as well as others producing equol (compound derived from the isoflavone daidzein with the highest estrogenic activity) (Fig. 4), which could be used in the formulation of functional foods.

From these studies, we have gathered large collections of LAB and bifidobacteria strains of intestinal origin. The group has also undertaken the study of different aspects of the physiology and genetics of these microbes, particularly the analysis of their plasmid content (Fig. 5). Some of these molecules have been used for the construction of genetic tools to further address studies at a molecular level.

Due to the concern of the presence of antibiotic resistances in the food chain, we have been studying the antibiotic resistance profiles (Fig. 6) and the antibiotic resistance determinants already spread among these bacterial groups.