An antimicrobial by definition is an agent that either kills or stops the growth of microorganisms. Among the various identities the egg can claim, antimicrobial is one of them. Various egg white proteins exhibit antimicrobial properties. One example is lysozyme, which attacks the polysaccharide cell walls of Gram-positive bacteria.1

Lysozyme exhibits no significant functional property on its own, however it interacts easily with other components in food system, and as such could influence actions such as gelation, foaming or emulsification and coagulation. Gels for example, within mixed protein systems producing stronger networks than pure proteins.2

The hen’s egg is actually the richest source of lysozyme among other sources, accounting for 3.5 percent of the albumen proteins.3 Lysozyme is a very stable enzyme.4 It can prevent the outgrowth of microbes in hard cheese production that cause a defect known as “late blowing,” control lactic acid bacteria in wine production and be used as a general food preservative in select applications. Lysozyme incorporated into food packaging materials has the potential to extend the shelf life of non-sterile or minimally processed foods by preventing the contamination by or growth of microorganisms.4

In further research, one recent study suggests that thermal and enzymatic treatments increase the antibacterial spectrum of hen egg white lysozyme in relation to oenological (winemaking) microorganisms and is worth further investigation.5

Other, experimental results suggest that treatment with lysozyme solution could be used as an effective antimicrobial means to extend the shelf life of poultry meat under refrigerated storage.5

  1. Pyler EJ and Gorton LA. (2010). Baking Science & Technology, Fourth Edition, Volume 1, Sosland Publishing Co., Kansas City, Missouri, USA
  2. Ustunol, Z. (2015). Applied Food Protein Chemistry, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, West Sussex, United Kingdom
  3. Jimenez-Saiz R, Gordon ME, Carrillo W. (2013). Hen Egg White Lysozyme: Antimicrobial Activity & Allergenicity; Lysozymes: Sources, Functions and Role in Disease, Nova Science Publishers, ebook
  4.  Huopalahti R, Lopez-Fandino R, Anton M. (2007). Bioactive Egg Compounds, Springer Science & Business Media, Heidelberg Germany
  5. Carillo W, Garcia-Ruiz A Recio I, Morano-Arribas MV. (2014). Antibacterial activity of hen egg white lysozyme modified by heat and enzymatic treatments against oenological lactic acid bacteria and acetic acid bacteria. J Food Prot 2014 Oct;77(10):1732-9