Students identify powerful ‘poms’ - Brooklyn duo documents virus-fighting properties of the pomegranate

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Two students at Touro College’s Lander College of Arts and Sciences – Flatbush (LCAS – Flatbush) have discovered that bacteria that cause cavities in teeth and the viruses that plague hospitals can be destroyed by properties in pomegranate juice and other readily available beverages.

The students, Zev Zelman and Elliot Lutz, have been invited to present their research at the 108th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), which will be held at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center on June 4.

The ASM is the world’s oldest and largest single life science membership organization, with more than 43,000 members. Both young men will graduate in June with honors from LCAS – Flatbush and plan to enter dental school.

Working with Milton Schiffenbauer, a professor of microbiology at Pace University who also teaches at Touro, the students studied the antibacterial and antiviral effects of 34 natural beverages on fighting harmful bacteria that causes cavities and other health problems.

After 10 months of research, they concluded that some beverages, most notably pomegranate juice, efficiently inactivate the bacteria that cause cavities and bacterium that commonly occur in hospitals and locker rooms.

These natural additives also inactivate a bacterial virus that affects E. coli B. The research suggests other pathogenic viruses may be equally affected.

“All our research was done in test tubes, and there is still a lot of work to be done, but we are excited by the prospect that common health problems may be solved with natural ingredients, avoiding the side effects and complications of antibiotics and other medications,” said Lutz.

“We are very grateful for the guidance we received from Doctor Schiffenbauer and our great teachers at Touro College.”

“We are honored to be able to present our findings at the ASM conference, especially because most of the presenters are microbiologists, not students,” said Zelman.

“The implications for strides in eliminating cavities is especially important to us, because we both plan to become dentists.”

The students based their research on the knowledge that cavities are not caused by the consumption of sweets, but rather the bacteria that ferment the dietary carbohydrates to produce lactic acid, which eats away at tooth enamel.

However, pomegranate juice, and to a lesser degree pomegranate tea, effectively deactivate the bacteria within 10 minutes of contact.

Other beverages tested that were effective included grape juice, cranberry juice, and some wines. The other beverages tested in the research had slight or no effect on the bacteria.

The students also learned that the same bacteria-fighting properties in pomegranate juice that prevented cavities were also found to destroy Methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), a type of bacteria responsible for deaths in hospitals and is rampant in locker rooms and gyms.

“These two students were enthusiastic and brilliant,” said Schiffenbauer. “It was a pleasure to work with them. They took existing data and brought it to a new level of groundbreaking research. This is a very prestigious conference and only very select papers are chosen for presentati­ons.”

Lander College of Arts & Sciences-Flatbush, one of 29 schools that are part of the Touro College universe, is located at Avenue J and East 16th Street in the heart of one of the largest Jewish communities in the world.

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Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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