Research – Hurdle Technology Approach to Control Listeria monocytogenes Using Rhamnolipid Biosurfactant



This study evaluates the combination of mild heat with a natural surfactant for the inactivation of L. monocytogenes Scott A in low-water-activity (aw) model systems. Glycerol or NaCl was used to reduce the aw to 0.92, and different concentrations of rhamnolipid (RL) biosurfactant were added before heat treatment (60 °C, 5 min). Using glycerol, RL treatment (50–250 µg/mL) reduced bacterial population by less than 0.2 log and heat treatment up to 1.5 log, while the combination of both hurdles reached around 5.0 log reduction. In the NaCl medium, RL treatment displayed higher inactivation than in the glycerol medium at the same aw level and a larger synergistic lethal effect when combined with heat, achieving ≥ 6.0 log reduction at 10–250 µg/mL RL concentrations. The growth inhibition activity of RL was enhanced by the presence of the monovalent salts NaCl and KCl, reducing MIC values from >2500 µg/mL (without salt) to 39 µg/mL (with 7.5% salt). The enhanced antimicrobial activity of RL promoted by the presence of salts was shown to be pH-dependent and more effective under neutral conditions. Overall, results demonstrate that RL can be exploited to design novel strategies based on hurdle approaches aiming to control L. monocytogenes.

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