What is Natamycin?
Naturally occurring in soil as a result of bacterial fermentation, Natamycin, also known as Pimaricin, was discovered by DSM scientists more than 50 years ago. It has been on the market since 1967 and is predominantly used for food preservation and in very rare cases as a treatment for fungal infections.
How is it produced?
Natamycin is produced by a pure culture of Streptomyces natalensis bacteria following a strictly controlled fermentation process. After extraction, the Natamycin is centrifuged, filtered, and washed, to ensure the purity and quality of the end product. Natamycin is available in both liquid and powder formulations and commercially sold, amongst others, by DSM, under the brand name Delvo®Cid.
How does it work?
Natamycin protects foods through a unique mechanism that targets ergosterol in the cell wall. Ergosterol is a building block of yeasts and molds, which is responsible for intracellular nutrient transport, and therefore vital for their survival. As ergosterol is not present in the outer membranes of bacteria, these remain unaffected.
Is it an antibiotic?
Under some definitions, Natamycin is an antibiotic and under others it is not. Natamycin is technically called an antibiotic in food preservation as it can prevent the growth of yeasts and molds, which are living organisms (in Latin antibiotic means against living). However, as a natural mold inhibitor it has no effect on bacteria and thus has nothing in common with regular medicinal antibiotics prescribed for bacterial infections. Therefore Natamycin is not an antibiotic according to the WHO.
WHO: natamycin no antibiotic
According to the last WHO (World Health Organization) definition from 2011, the term antibiotic is used as a synonym for antibacterial substances used to treat bacterial infections in both people and animals. According to this definition Natamycin is not an antibiotic.
The Natamycin story
Dr. Jacques Waisvisz is one of the inventors of Natamycin, also known as Pimaricin. He worked for the yeast producer Koninklijke Nederlandsche Gist- en Spiritusfabriek (KNG&SF) during the 1950s, which later became Gist-brocades and eventually DSM.