Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 97, Issue 17, pp 7579-7585

First online:

The safety assessment of Pythium irregulare as a producer of biomass and eicosapentaenoic acid for use in dietary supplements and food ingredients

  • Lei WuAffiliated withDepartment of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Iowa State University
  • , Charles L. RoeAffiliated withAlgiSys, LLC
  • , Zhiyou WenAffiliated withDepartment of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Iowa State UniversityAlgiSys, LLC Email author 

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Polyunsaturated fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6, n-3), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, 20:5, n-3), and arachidonic acid (ARA, 20:4 n-6), have multiple beneficial effects on human health and can be used as an important ingredient in dietary supplements, food, feed and pharmaceuticals. A variety of microorganisms has been used for commercial production of these fatty acids. The microorganisms in the Pythium family, particularly Pythium irregulare, are potential EPA producers. The aim of this work is to provide a safety assessment of P. irregulare so that the EPA derived from this species can be potentially used in various commercial applications. The genus Pythium has been widely recognized as a plant pathogen by infecting roots and colonizing the vascular tissues of various plants such as soybeans, corn and various vegetables. However, the majority of the Pythium species (including P. irregulare) have not been reported to infect mammals including humans. The only species among the Pythium family that infects mammals is P. insidiosum. There also have been no reports showing P. irregulare to contain mycotoxins or cause potentially allergenic responses in humans. Based on the safety assessment, we conclude that P. irregulare can be considered a safe source of biomass and EPA-containing oil for use as ingredients in dietary supplements, food, feed and pharmaceuticals.


Safety assessment Pythium irregulare Oomycete Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) Algae