Category Archives: Biofilm

Research – Nisin penetration and efficacy against Staphylococcus aureus biofilms under continuous-flow conditions

Microbiology Research

Biofilms may enhance the tolerance of bacterial pathogens to disinfectants, biocides and other stressors by restricting the penetration of antimicrobials into the matrix-enclosed cell aggregates, which contributes to the recalcitrance of biofilm-associated infections. In this work, we performed real-time monitoring of the penetration of nisin into the interior of Staphylococcus aureus biofilms under continuous flow and compared the efficacy of this lantibiotic against planktonic and sessile cells of S. aureus . Biofilms were grown in Center for Disease Control (CDC) reactors and the spatial and temporal effects of nisin action on S. aureus cells were monitored by real-time confocal microscopy. Under continuous flow, nisin caused loss of membrane integrity of sessile cells and reached the bottom of the biofilms within ~20 min of exposure. Viability analysis using propidium iodide staining indicated that nisin was bactericidal against S. aureus biofilm cells. Time-kill assays showed that S. aureus viability reduced 6.71 and 1.64 log c.f.u. ml for homogenized planktonic cells in exponential and stationary phase, respectively. For the homogenized and intact S. aureus CDC biofilms, mean viability decreased 1.25 and 0.50 log c.f.u. ml, respectively. Our results demonstrate the kinetics of biofilm killing by nisin under continuous-flow conditions, and shows that alterations in the physiology of S. aureus cells contribute to variations in sensitivity to the lantibiotic. The approach developed here could be useful to evaluate the antibiofilm efficacy of other bacteriocins either independently or in combination with other antimicrobials.

Research – Enzymatic Inactivation of Pathogenic and Nonpathogenic Bacteria in Biofilms in Combination with Chlorine

Journal of Food Protection

This study investigated the effects of enzyme application on biofilms of bacterial isolates from a cafeteria kitchen and foodborne pathogens and the susceptibility of Salmonella biofilms to proteinase K combined with chlorine treatment. For four isolates from a cafeteria kitchen (Acinetobacter, Enterobacter, and Kocuria) and six strains of foodborne pathogens (Salmonella enterica, Staphylococcus aureus, and Vibrio parahaemolyticus), the inhibitory effect of enzymes on biofilm formation at 25°C for 24 h or the degradative efficacy of enzymes on 24-h mature biofilm at 37°C for 1 h in tryptic soy broth (TSB) was examined in a polystyrene microtiter plate. The effect of enzymes was also evaluated on a subset of these strains in 20 times diluted TSB (1/20 TSB) at 25°C. The working concentrations of five enzymes were 1 U/100 μL for α-amylase, amyloglucosidase, cellulase, and DNase and 1 milli-Anson unit/100 μL for proteinase K. In addition, 24-h mature SalmonellaTyphimurium biofilm on a stainless steel coupon was treated with proteinase K for 1 h at 25°C followed by 20 ppm of chlorine for 1 min at 25°C. The results showed that certain enzymes inhibited biofilm formation by the kitchen-originated bacteria; however, the enzymatic effect was diminished on the mature biofilms. Biofilm formation of V. parahaemolyticus was suppressed by all tested enzymes, whereas the mature biofilm was degraded by α-amylase, DNase I, and proteinase K. Proteinase K was effective in controlling Salmonella biofilms, whereas a strain-dependent variation was observed in S. aureusbiofilms. In 1/20 TSB, Enterobacter cancerogenus and Kocuria varians were more susceptible to certain enzymes during biofilm formation than those in TSB, whereas the enzymatic effect was much decreased on 24-h mature biofilms, regardless of nutrient conditions. Furthermore, synergistic inactivation of Salmonella Typhimurium in biofilms was observed in the combined treatment of proteinase K followed by chlorine. Live/Dead assays also revealed a decrease in density and loss of membrane integrity in Salmonella Typhimurium biofilms exposed to the combined treatment. Therefore, certain enzymes can control biofilms of isolates residing in a cafeteria kitchen and foodborne pathogens. This study demonstrates the potential of enzymes for the sanitation of food processing environments and of proteinase K combined with chlorine to control Salmonella biofilms on food contact surfaces.

Research – Effect of Atmospheric Pressure Plasma on Listeria monocytogenes Attached to Abiotic Surfaces

Journal of Food Protection

Listeria monocytogenes can be introduced into food processing plants via raw material of animal or plant origin and can establish endemic populations through formation of biofilms. Biofilms are a continuous source of contamination for food products, and L. monocytogenes cells in biofilms are more resistant to stress and sanitizing agents than are planktonic cells. The use of gas-discharge plasmas may offer a feasible alternative to conventional sanitization methods. Plasmas are a mixture of charged particles, chemically reactive species, and UV radiation and can be used to destroy microorganisms. The purpose of this study was to measure the effectiveness of cold atmospheric pressure plasma (APP) treatments against bacteria attached to a solid surface and to evaluate the individual susceptibility of various L. monocytogenes strains. Attention was focused on the state of the cells after treatment, combining detection by viable counts and quantitative PCR (qPCR). Most of the culturable cells were inactivated after APP treatment, but the qPCR assay targeting the 16S rRNA revealed the presence of injured cells or their entrance into the viable but nonculturable state. These results were at least partly confirmed by a resuscitation experiment. After APP treatment, L. monocytogenes cell suspensions were incubated in brain heart infusion broth; some cells grew in the medium and therefore had survived the treatment. An understanding of the effects of APP on L. monocytogenes can inform the development of sanitation programs incorporating APP for pathogen removal. Methods other than those based of the culturability of the cells should be used to monitor pathogens in food processing plants because cultivation alone may underestimate the actual microbial load.

Research – Biofilms and Meat Safety: A Mini-Review

Journal of Food Protection

Biofilms are surface-attached microbial communities with distinct properties, which have a tremendous impact on public health and food safety. In the meat industry, biofilms remain a serious concern because many foodborne pathogens can form biofilms in areas at meat plants that are difficult to sanitize properly, and biofilm cells are more tolerant to sanitization than their planktonic counterparts. Furthermore, nearly all biofilms in commercial environments consist of multiple species of microorganisms, and the complex interactions within the community significantly influence the architecture, activity, and sanitizer tolerance of the biofilm society. This review focuses on the effect of microbial coexistence on mixed biofilm formation with foodborne pathogens of major concern in the fresh meat industry and their resultant sanitizer tolerance. The factors that would affect biofilm cell transfer from contact surfaces to meat products, one of the most common transmission routes that could lead to product contamination, are discussed as well. Available results from recent studies relevant to the meat industry, implying the potential role of bacterial persistence and biofilm formation in meat contamination, are reviewed in response to the pressing need to understand the mechanisms that cause “high event period” contamination at commercial meat processing plants. A better understanding of these events would help the industry to enhance strategies to prevent contamination and improve meat safety.

Research – Capacity to adhere to and invade human epithelial cells, as related to the presence of virulence genes in, motility of, and biofilm formation of Campylobacter jejuni strains isolated from chicken and cattle

NRC Research Press

Campylobacter jejuni is a zoonotic pathogen transmitted through the “farm to fork” route. Outbreaks are generally associated with the consumption of chicken meat; however, dairy cows, birds, wild and domestic food animals, and pets are other important sources. Currently, there are not enough data comparing the virulence of strains isolated from these reservoirs. In this study, we compared C. jejuni strains isolated from broiler chickens and dairy cattle by determining their ability to adhere to and invade in vitro human colonic epithelial cells in the T84 cell line with their motility, formation of biofilms, and presence of eight virulence genes. A Wilcoxon Rank Sum test was performed to establish the relationship between presence of the studied genes and cellular invasion and adhesion, as well as differences between the animal species of origin of the isolate. A Spearman correlation was performed to assess the relationship between invasion and motility, along with invasion and biofilm generation. The virB11 gene was positively associated with the adherence capacity of the strains (mean difference = 0.21, p = 0.006), and strains isolated from chickens showed a significant difference for adherence compared with strains isolated from cattle (p = 0.0001). Our results indicate that strains of C. jejuni have a difference in their adherence capacity depending on the animal reservoir from which they came, with chicken isolates displaying higher virulence than dairy cattle isolates.

Research – Behavior of foodborne pathogens, Listeria monocytogenes and Staphylococcus aureus, in mixed-species biofilm exposed to biocides


In nature and man-made environments, microorganisms reside in mixed-species biofilm where behavior is modified compared to the single-species biofilms. Pathogenic microorganisms may be protected against adverse treatments in mixed-species biofilms leading to health risk for humans. Here, we developed two mixed-five-species biofilms that included the foodborne pathogens Listeria monocytogenes or Staphylococcus aureus, respectively. The five species, including the pathogen, were isolated from a single food-processing environmental sample thus mimicking the environmental community. In mature mixed five-species biofilms on stainless steel, the two pathogens remained at a constant level of ∼105 CFU/cm2 The mixed-five-species biofilms as well as the pathogens in mono-species biofilms were exposed to biocides to determine any pathogen-protective effect of the mixed biofilm. Both pathogens and their associate microbial communities were reduced by peracetic acid treatments. S. aureus decreased 4.6 log cycles in mono-species biofilm, but the pathogen was protected in the five-species biofilm and decreased only 1.1 log cycles. Sessile cells of L. monocytogenes were affected equally as a mono-biofilm or as a member in the mixed-species biofilm; decreasing by three log cycles when exposed to 0.0375 % peracetic acid. When the pathogen was exchanged in each associate microbial community, S. aureus was eradicated while there was no significant effect of the biocide on L. monocytogenes or the mixed community. This indicates that particular members or associations in the community offered the protective effect. Further studies are needed to clarify the mechanisms of biocide protection, and the species playing the protective role in microbial communities of biofilms. Importance: This study demonstrates that foodborne pathogens can be established in mixed species biofilms and that this can protect them from biocide action. The protection is not due to specific characteristics of the pathogen, here S. aureus and L. monocytogenes, but likely caused by specific members or associations in the mixed species biofilm. Biocide treatment and resistance is a challenge for many industries and biocide efficacy should be tested on microorganisms growing in biofilms, preferably mixed systems, mimicking the application environment.

Research – Cinnamaldehyde disrupts biofilm formation and swarming motility of Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Microbiology Research

Bacterial biofilms can cause serious health care complications associated with increased morbidity and mortality. There is an urge to discover and develop new biofilm inhibitors from natural products or by modifying natural compounds or understanding the modes of action of existing compounds. Cinnamaldehyde (CAD), one of the major components of cinnamon oil, has been demonstrated to act as an antimicrobial agent against a number of Gram-negative and Gram-positive pathogens, including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Helicobacter pylori and Listeria monocytogenes. Despite the mechanism of action of CAD against the model organism P. aeruginosa being undefined, based on its antimicrobial properties, we hypothesized that it may disrupt preformed biofilms of P. aeruginosa. The minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of CAD for planktonic P. aeruginosa was determined to be 11.8 mM. Membrane depolarization assays demonstrated disruption of the transmembrane potential of P. aeruginosa. CAD at 5.9 mM (0.5 MIC) disrupted preformed biofilms by 75.6 % and 3 mM CAD (0.25 MIC) reduced the intracellular concentrations of the secondary messenger, bis-(3′–5′)-cyclic dimeric guanosine monophosphate (c-di-GMP), which controls P. aeruginosa biofilm formation. The swarming motility of P. aeruginosa was also reduced by CAD in a concentration-dependent manner. Collectively, these findings show that sub-MICs of CAD can disrupt biofilms and other surface colonization phenotypes through the modulation of intracellular signalling processes.