Biomimicry of volatile‐based microbial control for managing emerging fungal pathogens


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Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are known to be produced by a wide range of micro‐organisms and for a number of purposes. Volatile‐based microbial inhibition in environments such as soil is well‐founded, with numerous antimicrobial VOCs having been identified. Inhibitory VOCs are of interest as microbial control agents, as low concentrations of gaseous VOCs can elicit significant antimicrobial effects. Volatile organic compounds are organic chemicals typically characterized as having low molecular weight, low solubility in water, and high vapour pressure. Consequently, VOCs readily evaporate to the gaseous phase at standard temperature and pressure. This contact‐independent antagonism presents unique advantages over traditional, contact‐dependent microbial control methods, including increased surface exposure and reduced environmental persistence. This approach has been the focus of our recent research, with positive results suggesting it may be particularly promising for the management of emerging fungal pathogens, such as the causative agents of white‐nose syndrome of bats and snake fungal disease, which are difficult or impossible to treat using traditional approaches. Here, we review the history of volatile‐based microbial control, discuss recent progress in formulations that mimic naturally antagonistic VOCs, outline the development of a novel treatment device, and highlight areas where further work is needed to successfully deploy VOCs against existing and emerging fungal pathogens.


Volatile organic chemicals, Biomimicry, Pathogenic microorganisms

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