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Bacterial spores are resistant to severe conditions and form a challenge to eradicate from food or food packaging material. Cold atmospheric plasma (CAP) treatment is receiving more attention as potential sterilization method at relatively mild conditions but the exact mechanism of inactivation is still not fully understood. In this study, the biocidal effect by nitrogen CAP was determined for chemical (hypochlorite and hydrogen peroxide), physical (UV) and heat-resistant spores. The three different sporeformers used are Bacillus cereus a food-borne pathogen, and Bacillus atrophaeus and Geobacillus stearothermophilus that are used as biological indicators for validation of chemical sterilization and thermal processes, respectively. The different spores showed variation in their degree of inactivation by applied heat, hypochlorite, hydrogen peroxide, and UV treatments, whereas similar inactivation results were obtained with the different spores treated with nitrogen CAP. G. stearothermophilus spores displayed high resistance to heat, hypochlorite, hydrogen peroxide, while for UV treatment B. atrophaeus spores are most tolerant. Scanning electron microscopy analysis revealed distinct morphological changes for nitrogen CAP-treated B. cereus spores including etching effects and the appearance of rough spore surfaces, whereas morphology of spores treated with heat or disinfectants showed no such changes. Moreover, microscopy analysis revealed CAP-exposed B. cereus spores to turn phase grey conceivably because of water influx indicating damage of the spores, a phenomenon that was not observed for non-treated spores. In addition, data are supplied that exclude UV radiation as determinant of antimicrobial activity of nitrogen CAP. Overall, this study shows that nitrogen CAP treatment has a biocidal effect on selected Bacillus and Geobacillus spores associated with alterations in spore surface morphology and loss of spore integrity.
- gas plasma
- subtilis spores
van Bokhorst-van de Veen, H., Xie, H., Esveld, D. C., Abee, T., Mastwijk, H. C., & Nierop Groot, M. N. (2015). Inactivation of chemical and heat-resistant spores of Bacillus and Geobacillus by nitrogen cold atmospheric plasma and comparison to thermal and chemical based methods. Food Microbiology, 45(part A), 26-33. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fm.2014.03.018