Antibacterial vegetables capable of blitzing dangerous E. coli infections have been bred by scientists in Germany.
Although E. coli is a universal resident of the human intestine, some forms of the bacterium, including those dubbed EHECs - enterohaemorrhagic E. coli - which are carried by livestock, can cause life-threatening infections.
An E. coli O104:H4 outbreak that caused thousands of infections across Europe in 2011 was traced to a batch of contaminated fenugreek seeds.
Remarkably, part of the solution to stopping outbreaks like this might lie with E. coli itself.
The result is plants capable of producing very high levels of the colicin products. In tests, yields of 3 grams per kilogram were achieved.
The colicin proteins were easy to extract from the plants in a fully functional form and, individually or in combination with each other, were capable of neutralising all of the "big 7" E. coli strains identified as capable of causing EHEC syndromes. The O104:H4 European strain was also susceptible.
Moreover, the human gut already contains E. coli strains capable of producing colicins, meaning that this class of chemicals fall under regulatory legislation dubbed "GRAS" - short for "generally regarded as safe".
This means that the product candidates would be approved for healthcare use relatively quickly. And as they are not antibiotics but instead natural compounds, they avoid the on-going risks associated with antimicrobial resistance.