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Speaker at Applied Microbiology 2022 - Teresa Gervasi
University of Messina, Italy
Title : Bioplastics functionalization with phloretin to enhance their antioxidant and antimicrobial properties against food born pathogens


The formulation of eco-friendly biodegradable packaging has received great attention during the last decades to replace traditional widespread petroleum-based food packaging. Biodegradable polymers may play a pivotal role as delivery system for bioactive compounds able to protect the packed foods against their oxidative damage and bacterial contamination.  In recent years, a new generation of food packaging, in particular biopolymer matrices based on proteins and polysaccharides from agro-industrial wastes as well as on bio-composites based on microbial polyesters, the polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) are on the rise. The aim of the present study focuses on the formulation of innovative and active packaging materials from renewable sources represented by proteins from argan (Argania spinosa) (APC) seed oil cakes, and PHA produced by microbial fermentation of lignocellulosic biomasses. The produced materials were functionalized with phloretin. Phloretin is a dihydrochalcone, belonging to the class of flavonoids, which is the most abundant compound identified in apples and in apple-derived products as well as in the kumquat, characterized by the presence of the pharmacophore 2,6-dihydroxyacetophenone, that is responsible of its biological potential. Recently, our group has shown the broad spectrum of beneficial properties of phloretin for human health, such as antiinflammatory, antimicrobial, anti-hypertensive, antioxidant and anti-cancer activity.

Starting from this evidence we have manufactured and technologically and biologically characterized APC- and PHA-based bioplastics added with phloretin. In addition, the evaluation of the active molecule released from the functionalized materials was performed by reverse-phase HPLC-DAD detection. The assessment of their antimicrobial properties has been carried out against Gram-positive bacteria (Listeria monocytogenes ATCC 13932 and Staphylococcus aureus ATCC 6538) and Gram-negative bacteria (Escherichia coli ATCC 10536 and Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium ATCC 13311). The results revealed an increase of the antioxidant properties of the phloretin containing films when compared with the neat material. PHA-based functionalized polymers also caused a decrease of the growth of food-born pathogens (such as Listeria. monocytogenes ATCC 13932). The results described, for the first time, the possibility to exploit phloretin as a functionalizing agent for bioplastic formulation, especially as far as food packaging is concerned.



What will audience learn from your presentation?

  • This research can be of great interest for the audience because:
  • Nowadays the bioeconomy plays a central role, this work is perfectly in line with the demand, from the European Community, for a transition to a more circular economic model offering many environmental, social and financial benefits.
  • The impact of this study could be important as the research provides considerable insights into various fields, promoting a reduction of fossil carbon use and an increase in the use of biodegradable plastics; encouraging the processing of by-products and waste into high value-added products; maximizing the use of food waste, thus reducing the amount of waste in landfills.
  • The production of new bioplastics could help to create new professional figures.         
  • How will this help the audience in their job? Is this research that other faculties could use to expand their research or teaching? Does this provide a practical solution to a problem that could simplify or make a designer’s job more efficient? Will it improve the accuracy of a design, or provide new information to assist in a design problem? List all other benefits.
  • This study addresses the green chemistry principles and circular economy, as it promotes the following benefits:
  • The pivotal role of bioeconomy;
  • Processes inspired by the green chemistry principles;
  • Waste valorization which will contribute to the implementation of European Bioeconomy Strategy (IEABioenergy Task 42 report 2011)
  • Transition toward a circular and sustainable bioeconomy, which has the potential to contribute to all dimensions and objectives of the European Green Deal


Dr. Teresa Gervasi is Assistant Professor of “Fermentations Chemistry” of the University of Messina. She studied at the University of Messina, Italy and graduated cum laude in Biology. Being a PhD student in “Chemistry and Food Safety”, she joined the research group of Prof. Arjan Narbad at the Institute of Food Research (Norwich, UK). In April 2013 she obtained the title of “Doctor Europaeus”. Since 2014 she has been “Cultore della materia” for “Fermentation chemistry” teaching at the University of Messina and she has been awarded several scholarships. She has published more than 40 research articles in SCI(E) journals.