Downstream processing in fermentation

Bacteria, Pathogen, Infection, Germs, Microbes

ndustrial fermentation is defined as the use of micro-organisms such as fungi and bacteria, intentionally for bulk production of profitable and useful metabolites.

It has great significance and applications worldwide.

Applications of Industrial fermentation

Industrial fermentation has been accredited with a variety of applications including:

  • Manufacture of chemicals such as citric acid, ethanol and acetic acid.
  • Commercial production of enzymes such as rennet, invertase and lipase
  • Biomass production for example large scale manufacture of ‘baker’s yeast’
  • Production of numerous therapeutic agents and drugs for example insulin, interferons etc.

What is the relationship between fermentation and downstream processing?

Downstream processing goes hand in hand with fermentation when it comes to industrial production of substances. Why is this/ The answer is quite simple. Products synthesized through industrial fermentation can never be used/consumed directly. They must undergo harvesting, purification, packaging and testing before being put into actual use intended. This is where downstream processing comes in, as the final stage in fermentation.

Downstream processing involves purification and recovery of biosynthetic products, especially pharmaceuticals from natural sources as well as spent fermentation broth. It is applied in manufacture of products such as antibiotics, hormones, antibodies, vaccines, industri8al enzymes etc. hence its correlation with fermentation.

Stages of fermentation

Industrial fermentation takes place in 3 stages. The first stage normally is referred to as upstream processing. It includes activities such as formulating the fermentation medium, sterilizing air, fermentation medium and fermentes. Inoculum is also prepared and introduced into the medium.

After this stage, the next one is referred to as fermentation. This of course if the fermentation process itself. It includes propagating the microorganism and a sample of the target product. It can be either aerobic (in presence of air) or anaerobic (in absence of air). Most industrial fermentation processes are aerobic, with a few exclusions such as production of ethanol that is strictly anaerobic.

The final stage in this process of course is downstream processing. This is where the target products are recovered in a pure state. Effluents are also treated. This takes place through a series of steps including cell separation, product recovery, extraction and purification as well as treatment of effluents.

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