The study data – presented at the Society for General Microbiology's Autumn Conference – tested the antibacterial action of coconut oil in its natural state and coconut oil that had been treated with enzymes, in a process similar to digestion, finding that the enzyme treated oil blocked the growth of most strains of Streptococcus bacteria including Streptococcus mutans – an acid-producing bacterium that is a major cause of tooth decay.
Led by Dr Damien Brady from the Athlone Institute of Technology, Ireland, the research team suggests that the enzyme-modified coconut oil has potential as a marketable antimicrobial which could be of particular interest to the oral healthcare industry.
"Dental caries is a commonly overlooked health problem affecting 60-90% of children and the majority of adults in industrialized countries,” said Brady. “Incorporating enzyme-modified coconut oil into dental hygiene products would be an attractive alternative to chemical additives, particularly as it works at relatively low concentrations.”
Further work by Brady and his team will now focus on how coconut oil interacts with Streptococcus bacteria at the molecular level and which other strains of harmful bacteria and yeasts it is active against.