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J Microbiol Methods. 2007 Dec;71(3):231-7. Epub 2007 Sep 14.

Rapid methods to assess sanitizing efficacy of benzalkonium chloride to Listeria monocytogenes biofilms.

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  • 1Department of Food Science and Canadian Research Institute for Food Safety, University of Guelph, 43 McGilvray St., Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 2W1.


Different methods were used to investigate biofilm growth including crystal violet staining, ATP bioluminescence and total viable count. Seven strains of Listeria monocytogenes and 8 of their derivative strains were screened for their capacity to form biofilms. Both adaptation to benzalkonium chloride (BC) and curing of plasmids did not significantly affect biofilm-forming ability. The strains of L. monocytogenes belonging to serotype 1 formed biofilms significantly better as compared to serotype 4 (P=0.0003). To estimate the efficacy of BC for biofilm elimination the best and the poorest biofilm-formers were used (C719 and LJH 381). It was observed that, L. monocytogenes strain C719 in biofilms is at least 1000 times more resistant to BC than in planktonic form. Cells present in biofilms were shown to recover and grow after BC treatment thus providing a source of recontamination. It was shown that ATP bioluminescence provides good correlation with bacterial counts of L. monocytogenes in biofilms. Staining with crystal violet, on the contrary, did not correlate with bacterial growth in biofilms in the presence of high concentrations of BC but provided information on the concentration of bacterial cells, both live and dead, attached to the surface. ATP bioluminescence was found to be a reliable method for rapid estimation of the efficacy of sanitizers for biofilm disinfection. Crystal violet staining, on the other hand, was shown to be a suitable method to monitor removal of biofilms. Our investigation showed that for Listeria biofilms concentrations of BC higher then 10 mg/ml should be applied for at least 30 min to kill almost all the live cells in biofilms. However, this concentration was still not enough to remove biofilms from the surface of plastic.

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