Thirteen Lactic acid bacteria strains isolated from fermenting cocoa and seven reference strains were used in order to assess their antifungal properties towards three ochratoxin A (OTA) producing fungi (Aspergillus carbonarius, Aspergillus niger and Aspergillus ochraceus). Furthermore, two of the isolates strains (A19 and A21) identified as belonging to the genus of Pediococcus as well as Lactobacillus plantarum B4496, Lactobacillus brevis 207 and Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis BB12 showed interesting in vitro broad antifungal activities towards the three ochratoxin-producing fungi with inhibition percentages ranging from 15% to 66.7%. Treatment of cell-free supernatant at 100 degrees C affected antifungal activity suggesting that the main compounds responsible for this activity were of proteic nature, and hence could be bacteriocins. Application of isolate A19 in cocoa fermentation as starter inhibited the growth of each of the OTA-producing species. At the end of fermentation in boxes inoculated with A19, A. niger was not detectable while A. carbonarius concentration was found to be 2 Log CFU/ g of wet beans. The assessment of the ochratoxin produced during fermentation of cocoa inoculated with A. carbonarius indicated that the use of isolate A19 as starter could reduce their level of growth so as to have only a toxin production of 0.0012 +/- 0.0005 mu g/ kg after 40 days of storage, while this was 2.45 +/- 0.35 mu g/ kg of fermented and dried cocoa beans in the absence of A19. This work is a contribution for the application of biological control of OTA-producing fungi during cocoa production.
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