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Anti-microbial/bacterial peptides (AMPs) are widely distributed in nature; they are produced by bacteria, plants and a wide variety of animals - both invertebrates and vertebrates. For animals and plants, AMPs are an important defence against microorganisms. AMPs may also for bacteria be thought of as a type of defence, since AMPs enable killing of invading bacteria that compete with the AMP-producer for nutrients.
There has especially been great interest in structure-function analysis of AMPs (often termed bacteriocins) produced by lactic acid bacteria (LAB). These AMPs (bacteriocins) are extremely potent, being active at pico to nano-molar concentrations. Moreover, the bacteria (i.e. LAB) that produce these AMPs are of “food grade quality” and industrial importance. LAB are used in food and feed production, they are part of the natural microbial flora in food humans have consumed for centuries, and they constitute a significant part of the indigenous flora of mammals, including humans. LAB and LAB AMPs/bacteriocins may, consequently, be considered to be relatively safe agents for preventing growth of pathogenic/undesirable micro-organisms. Some LAB AMPs/bacteriocins are in fact presently used as food preservatives, and the potential of LAB AMPs/bacteriocins in medical applications is exemplified by results showing that oral intake of bacteriocin-producing LAB protects mice against lethal doses of Listeria monocytogenes