Improper use of biocides in food production may endanger public health

Jan 06, 2014

Biocides used in the food industry at sublethal doses may be endangering, rather than protecting, public health by increasing antibiotic resistance in bacteria and enhancing their ability to form harmful biofilms, according to a study published ahead of print in Applied and Environmental Microbiology. This is among the first studies to examine the latter phenomenon.

The study was designed to test whether exposing Escherichia coli bacteria to sub-lethal concentrations of each of three food-grade could result in greater , a greater ability to form damaging and potentially virulent biofilms and to survive normally lethal doses of biocides, says corresponding author Rosa Capita of the University of Leon, Spain.

"Recent scientific evidence suggests that the selective pressure exerted by the use of biocides at sub-lethal concentrations could contribute to the expression and dissemination of antibiotic resistance mechanisms," according to the report.

Exposures to the biocide sodium nitrite increased resistance to 14 out of 29 antibiotics tested. E. coli cells also acquired tolerance to the biocides, especially sodium nitrite and sodium hypochlorite, and these two biocides improved the microbes' ability to form biofilms.

Conversely, exposure to the biocide trisodium phosphate actually reduced E. coli's ability to form biofilms, and boosted resistance only to a single antibiotic.

"These findings are in agreement with reports of other authors, where adaptation of E. coli to both chemical and physical sub-lethal stresses has been demonstrated," write the researchers. "The increased tolerance observed suggests that the use in food environments of compounds which when used inappropriately may provide sub-lethal exposure represents a real risk for the development of adaptation to biocides."

Biofilms boost the risk of food contamination by providing a reservoir of microorganisms, and is a major virulence factor in human infections. Biofilm formation also boosts operation and maintenance costs in food production by interfering with heat exchangers, plugging filters and blocking tubes in water distribution systems.

The study's results are important in demonstrating the need to guide policies to prevent improper use of biocides, says Capita.

Explore further: Research shows novel way in which Salmonella can resist antibiotics and antibacterial soaps

More information: www.asm.org/images/Communications/tips/2014/0114biocide.pdf

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Researchers develop new model of cellular movement

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Cell movement plays an important role in a host of biological functions from embryonic development to repairing wounded tissue. It also enables cancer cells to break free from their sites of ...

For resetting circadian rhythms, neural cooperation is key

Apr 17, 2014

Fruit flies are pretty predictable when it comes to scheduling their days, with peaks of activity at dawn and dusk and rest times in between. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Cell Reports on April 17th h ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

UAE reports 12 new cases of MERS

Health authorities in the United Arab Emirates have announced 12 new cases of infection by the MERS coronavirus, but insisted the patients would be cured within two weeks.