Food Preservative Shows Cancer Killing Properties

Nisin shows promise in killing cancer and deadly bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

A naturally occurring food preservative was found to help kill cancer and deadly bacteria resistant to antibiotics during a recent study.

Nisin is a food preservative that grows on dairy products. It is a colorless and tasteless powder found in many foods, and is added at the rate of .25 to 37.5 mg/kg.

Researchers from the University of Michigan conducted a study where they gave a “nisin milkshake” to rats. The mixture resulted in a 70% to 80% reduction in tumor cells in the head and neck after 9 weeks. The treatment was also found to extend survival.

After 9 weeks of treatment with nisin, researchers found the tumor size comparable to tumors at 3 weeks.

Although results were promising, the sample size is still small and has only been performed on mice. Therefore, it’s too early to determine if nisin will have an impact on humans.

In a review paper, researchers evaluated how nisin worked in treating 20 different types of cancer infections of the skin, respiratory system and abdomen, and oral health. This is because nisin is able to fight deadly bacteria like MRSA, which is antibiotic resistant.

Nisin is also able to kill bacteria because it binds to a static area of bacteria, allowing it to work before the bacteria is able to evolve and become antibiotic resistant. It also kills biofilms, which are colonies of bacteria that are able to resist antibiotics through creating a fortress by coming together.

"To date, nobody had found bacteria from humans or living animals that is resistant to nisin," said researcher and Professor Yvonne Kapila.

Researchers are hoping to move forward with nisin testing in a clinical setting.

"The application of nisin has advanced beyond its role as a food biopreservative," Dr. Kapila said. "Current findings and other published data support nisin's potential use to treat antibiotic resistant infections, periodontal disease and cancer."