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Scott Holt, Western Illinois Associate Professor, Biological Sciences
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WIU Biology Prof Earns Patent for "Good Bacteria"

August 15, 2007

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MACOMB, IL - - Scott Holt, a Western Illinois University associate biology professor, had a gut feeling there was more potential than food, ethanol and some industrial uses for the corn and soybean crops that encompass every roadway throughout western and central Illinois each summer. And they do.

Holt, and Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Chemist Greg Cote (pronounced Co TAY), who is based in Peoria, discovered how to use the unique sugars from the plants to stimulate the growth of good bacteria -- called probiotics -- in the intestines of animals such as chicks and piglets. This helps lessen the chance that the animals will have bacterial pathogens that cause illness in humans -- such as Salmonella and E. coli -- when they are slaughtered for human consumption, Holt explained.

Holt and Cote received a U.S. Patent for "Prebiotic Oligosaccharides Via Alternansucrase Acceptor Reactions" in February 2007. There has been only one other patent assigned to Western Illinois University and a faculty member (Vinod et al. 2005) since 1976.

The researchers developed a method for turning the special sugars in corn and soybeans into oligosaccharides, which are complex carbohydrates that can be used in food or food additives to nourish the intestine's good bacteria and squeeze out any room for bad pathogens. Using the microbial enzyme alternansucrase, Holt and Cote can chemically convert sugars like sucrose, maltose and others into different kinds of oligosaccharides, which, in turn, stimulates the growth of various types of good intestinal bacteria.

"This patent was the result of a longstanding collaborative research effort by the United States Department of Agriculture in Peoria, IL (Dr. Greg Cote) and WIU's biological sciences department," Holt said. "Although this patent is a great accomplishment for me and WIU, there is still much more research that needs to be performed on this topic."

Holt began his career at Western in 1997. He earned his bachelor's degree in biology from Illinois State University (1985) and his master's degree (1988) and doctorate (1993) degrees in microbiology from Iowa State University.

He has served as a postdoctoral research associate in microbiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and for the United States Department of Agriculture in Peoria.

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