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

 

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.

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