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Monolaurin and Food-Borne Bacterial Pathogens

Last Updated: January 7, 2019 | First Published: July 27, 2018
Reviewed by: Dr. Ahmed Zayed, M.D.

The Potential Effectiveness Of Monolaurin In The Elimination Of Foodborne Bacterium Species

Can Monolaurin help combat foodborne illness caused by mishandling of meat or exposure during international travel?

Can Monolaurin help combat foodborne illness caused by mishandling of meat or exposure during international travel?

Monolaurin, a compound found in coconut oil and considered a healthy by-product of the fats found in coconut, is gaining momentum in scientific studies and healthcare systems recently. The compound has now been associated with a number of potential health benefits, including improvements in immune system function and to assist in the treatment of certain skin-related conditions.

Studies are now turning their focus to the antimicrobial properties of monolaurin – not only to assist in treating bacterial and viral infections among patients but also as a solution to inhibit the growth and eliminate the presence of live pathogenic microorganisms in contaminated food products.

Foodborne Infections – A Global Concern

Foodborne diseases are becoming a threat in several countries. Several bacterial species have been identified to contaminate food and, when ingested, cause infection in the human body. Pathogenic microorganisms (Ref #1) like Clostridium botulinum, Y. Pseudotuberculosis, Escherichia coli, Vibrio spp, Enterococcus spp, and Listeria monocytogenes, are all of concern. These bacterium species can cause deadly bacterial infections, including urinary tract infections, endocarditis, the E. coli infection, and even meningitis.

These microorganisms can contaminate food without a person knowing it. When proper hygiene practices are not implemented at home or at a butchery, for example, bacteria may find their way into food.

When traveling to a new destination, food can also be contaminated with new species that are not commonly found in the traveler’s country. Outdoor activities like camping, picnicking, visiting street markets, etc. may also increase the risk of food being contaminated with pathogenic microorganisms.

Monolaurin In The Elimination Of Pathogenic Microorganisms

Monolaurin has been shown to be an effective compound used in the fight against both bacterial and viral infections. The compound may also help to reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance in patients being treated with pharmaceutical antimicrobial agents, and may also be a useful option for treating antibiotic resistance in patients who do not seem to respond well to such pharmaceutical drugs.

A paper by the Institute of Food Technologies (Ref #2) has  provided evidence that the use of Monolaurin as a coconut oil extraction may be a good option for fighting against the global concerns surrounding bacterial contamination in food products.

The study explains that monolaurin holds powerful antimicrobial actions that can help to eliminate the presence of certain bacterium strains in food that may be contaminated. Monolaurin seems to be effective against the bacterium species Bacillus subtilis and Escherichia coli (E. coli) when the compound is combined with another substance known as EDTA, or ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid.

E. Coli is a gram-negative bacteria commonly associated with foodborne illness and food poisoning. Research suggests that monolaurin is effective in killing gram-negative bacteria and E. Coli (Ref #3). Monlolauin may enter the cell membrane of E. Coli, thus disintegrating and killing the bacteria (Ref # 4). Monolaurin my help with digestive problems caused by E. Coli, as well as urinary tract infections.

Additional studies revealed that a mixture of Monolaurin and antimicrobial nisin might be an appropriate option for the treatment of food products contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, another bacteria which can be spread with the mishandling of food. (Ref #5)

A further study looked at the antimicrobial effects of Monolaurin against Entamoeba histolytica (E. histolytica) and Giardia lamblia (G. lamblia), which are common causes of diarrhea and malabsorption in humans. You can get Giardia lamblia from eating contmainted food or drinking contaminated water. The research suggests that monolaurin was effective in eliminating Giardia after infection, but even more interestingly helped prevent infection in the first place (Ref #6). 


  1. Ortega, Y. R. (2008). Foodborne Diseases. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 14(7), 1181.


  3. Beuchat LA. Comparison of antiviral activities of potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate and glycerol and sucrose esters of fatty acids. Appi. Environ. Microbiol. 39:1178, 1980

  4. Kabara JJ. The Pharmacological Effect of Lipids. Champaign, Ill, USA: American Oil Chemist’s Society; 1978. Page 92

  5. Zhang H, Wei H, Cui Y, Zhao G, Feng F. Antibacterial interactions of monolaurin with commonly used antimicrobials and food components. J Food Sci. 2009 Sep;74(7):M418-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2009.01300.x.

  6. Fahmy ZH, Aly E, Shalsh I, Mohamed AH. The effect of medium chain saturated fatty acid (monolaurin) on levels of the cytokines on experimental animal in Entamoeba histolytica and Giardia lamblia infection. African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. January 2014.


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