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J Microbiol Methods. 2007 Apr;69(1):44-51. Epub 2007 Jan 18.

A comparative study of biofilm formation by Shiga toxigenic Escherichia coli using epifluorescence microscopy on stainless steel and a microtitre plate method.

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  • 1Food Science Australia, Brisbane, QLD. 4173, Australia.


Attachment of Shiga toxigenic Escherichia coli (STEC) to surfaces and the formation of biofilms may enhance persistence in a food processing environment and present a risk of contaminating products. Seven strains of STEC and three non-STEC strains were selected to compare two biofilm quantification methods; epifluorescence microscopy on stainless steel (SS) and a microtitre plate assay. The influence of prior growth in planktonic (nutrient broth) and sessile (nutrient agar) culture on biofilm production, as well as expression of surface structures and the possession of antigen 43 (encoded by agn43) on biofilm formation were also investigated. Biofilms were produced in diluted nutrient broth at 25 degrees C for 24 and 48 h. Curli expression was determined using congo red indicator agar, while the presence of agn43 was determined using polymerase chain reaction. No correlation was found between counts for epifluorescence microscopy on SS and the absorbance values obtained with the microtitre plate method for planktonic and sessile grown cultures. Different abilities of individual STEC strains to attach to SS and microtitre plates were found with some strains attaching better to each surface following growth in either planktonic or sessile culture. All O157 STEC strains had low biofilm counts on SS for planktonic and sessile grown cultures; however, one STEC O157:H- strain (EC516) had significantly greater (p<0.05) biofilm production on microtitre plates compared to the other O157 STEC strains. EC516 and other STEC (O174:H21 and O91:H21) strains expressing curli fimbriae were found to produce significantly greater (p<0.05) biofilms on microtitre plates compared to the non-curli expressing strains. No relationship was found between the production of type-I fimbriae, motility, agn43 and bacterial physicochemical properties (previously determined) and biofilm formation on SS or microtitre plates. Variations between the two biofilm determination methods may suggest that the biofilm production on microtitre plates may not be appropriate to represent other surfaces such as SS and that caution should be taken when selecting a method to quantify biofilm production on a surface.

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