Nomad Bioscience researchers say their plants produce a protein that eliminates E. coli strain, but other experts are cautious about the announcement.

This month its researchers unveiled an engineered spinach and other edible plants capable of inhibiting the growth of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli.

Yuri Gleba, Ph.D., is the founder and CEO of Nomad Bioscience.

The process involves growing colicins, which are non-antibiotic proteins produced by E. coli strains, to kill or inhibit the growth of other E. coli strains. They are then used like an antibiotic.

The plant-produced proteins significantly reduced the amount of pathogenic bacteria present in meat spiked with E. coli O157:H7, Gleba said in a press release.

“It’s more focused and more efficient than an antibiotic,” he told Healthline. “You cannot use antibiotics on most animals or on food before you consume it.”

And since it’s not an antibiotic, Gleba added, “You don’t have to worry about antibiotic resistance.”

Gleba’s team studied whether tobacco and common edible plants such as spinach and leafy beets could be modified to produce colicins. The other question was if these proteins would prevent contamination in food.

The Nomad Bioscience report says that most colicins can operate at high levels in plants and retain full function. And mixtures of colicins, applied at low concentrations to bacterial cultures, greatly reduced the growth of all major pathogenic strains of E. coli.

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