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A European consortium co-ordinated by Professor Paul Cotter of Teagasc is using next-generation sequencing technologies to investigate the microbiomes of food systems and to improve our food quality, security and sustainability.

MASTER (Microbiome Applications for Sustainable food systems through Technologies and EnteRprise) is a European Union Horizon 2020 project co-ordinated by Professor Paul Cotter, head of the Food Biosciences department at Teagasc, Moorepark. The 30 partner project commenced in January 2019 and received EU funding of nearly €11 million over 4 years.

The microbiome is the collective term for the genetic material of all microbes in an environment, including bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoa. MASTER is an ambitious project that will develop a range of innovative applications to investigate and exploit the microbiomes associated with different food systems. Scientists within MASTER are using next-generation DNA sequencing technologies to map microbiomes across a range of environments. The resulting data will be used to improve food and nutrition security, to promote animal and human health and well-being and to develop new food waste management options and strategies for climate change mitigation.

Work to date has led to a publication in Nature Communications, where it was shown that consuming fermented foods rich in probiotic lactic acid bacteria (LAB) can enrich our intestines with these potentially probiotic microorganisms. The study is available online, https://rdcu.be/b5aJh.

Learn more about MASTER in a recent webinar from Professor Cotter for the Phytobiomes Alliance. In a wide-ranging presentation, he discusses the previous research that led to the development of the MASTER consortium, the technology and infrastructure in use, the work packages that make up the project and recent research by the team. The webinar can be viewed on YouTube, https://youtu.be/7Kbe8sa62q0.

Find out more and keep up to date with progress on MASTER by visiting us online at the Teagasc MASTER webpage and https://www.master-h2020.eu and by following us on Twitter at @MASTER_IA_H2020.