The microbe I will be discussing today is Arthrospira platensis. A. platensis, also known as Spirulina, is a blue-green cyanobacteria which has been harvested and consumed as food since ancient times in equatorial Africa regions. The microbe was first documented and by a French phycologist named Dangeard, while assigned to the French Army during African campaigns near present-day Chad (Barnett, M., 2007). Dangeard’s colleague, Creach, came across little biscuits of hardened A. platensis being sold in local markets for food. Large floating mats of the microbe accumulates at the surface of ponds and lakes and was collected, dried, and sold as food products. Similarly, Spanish conquistadors discovered a species of bacteria, A. maximus, also being consumed for food harvested in a Lake in modern-day Mexico. These two instances mark the only time on record in which humans consume microbial biomass as food (Barnett, M., 2007).
A. platensis is rich in vitamins, protein and other important nutrients which has caught the attention of medical and health researchers. According to studies, its health benefits may include antiviral, anticancer, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory activities. Other helpful properties associated with A. platensis are weight loss, wound healing, coronary artery disease, cholesterol management, and diabetes (Barnett, M., 2007).
Not only does this microbe, A. platensis, provide the above stated health and medicinal benefits but it is also considered a complete protein and is easily digested as a great source of nutrition. In comparison, A. platensis requires 1/30th the amount of water required to generate equal amounts of protein in beef products. In terms of pounds of protein to acre, the microbe is 100x and 10x more productive than beef and corn/soybeans, respectively (Barnett, M., 2007).
In conclusion, A. platensis, shows many promising medicinal and commercial food production uses. This microbe, for many thousands of years, has provided important nutrition and medicinal benefits. Further research and development as a food source could become a vital contributor to ensuring global food stability in the future