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Top Story

Could insects help find new yeasts for big business?

Yeasts are tiny fungi that play key roles in producing everything from beer and cheese to industrial chemicals and biofuels. And now scientists are proposing a new approach that could help these industries find new yeasts for use in their manufacturing processes. A recent study reviewed the available research to see how the understanding of insect-yeast ecology could inform the search for industrially relevant yeasts, looking specifically at insects that feed on sugars, such as beetles, wasps, bees and fruit flies. "Based on our analysis of the research, we propose that insects and yeasts have developed mutually beneficial relationships," said one of the researchers. "The yeast market is valued at more than $3 billion, with yeasts being used in diverse fields like food and beverage, biofuel and feed additives. While many industries rely on yeasts, we have very few yeast species in industrial use. There are at least 1,500 yeast species out there and we think that understanding insect ecology and insect relationships with yeast can help us identify better yeasts that have value for the industrial sector," she added.

Visit Website | Image credit: Anne A. Madden/Department of Applied Ecology, North Carolina State University