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Recovery of Bacteria Following Heat Treatment

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Heat stress has been used as a method of killing bacteria for many years, and is the basis for federal regulations promulgated to reduce pathogens in biosolids (40 CFR 503). However, recent studies have suggested that heat stressed organisms may be able to reactivate and re-grow. The purpose of this study was to examine bacterial response to heat stress over time and to evaluate the ability of bacteria to recover and grow. Washed Cultures of E. coli were placed into bottles containing sterile buffer and buffer amended with 1% nutrient broth. The bottles were then subjected to heat at 55°C for 4, 6, and 24 hours. Contents of bottles were assayed over 10 days for growth on non-selective agar plates using the spread plate method along with the multiple tube fermentation test (MPN). All procedures were negative for growth immediately after heat stress; however in the samples heated for 4 hrs and 6 hrs, recovery of E. coli was seen in buffer with nutrient broth after 24 hrs. Recovery was also seen in buffer alone after 72 hrs. Samples heated for 24 hrs did not show the ability to recover.

Keywords: heat stress; regrowth; sudden increase; vbnc

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2011

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