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J Appl Microbiol. 2008 Jun;104(6):1586-96. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2007.03694.x. Epub 2008 Jan 24.

Disinfectant test against monoculture and mixed-culture biofilms composed of technological, spoilage and pathogenic bacteria: bactericidal effect of essential oil and hydrosol of Satureja thymbra and comparison with standard acid-base sanitizers.

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Department of Food Science and Technology, Laboratory of Microbiology and Biotechnology of Foods, Agricultural University of Athens, Athens, Greece.



To assess the antimicrobial action of three natural-derived products (essential oil, decoction and hydrosol of Satureja thymbra) against biofilms, composed of useful, spoilage and pathogenic bacteria (formed as monoculture or/and mixed-culture), and to compare their efficiency with three standard acid and alkaline chemical disinfectants.


Two acids (hydrochloric and lactic, pH 3), one alkali (sodium hydroxide, pH 11), the essential oil of S. thymbra (1% v/v) and the two by-products of the essential oil purification procedure (the decoction and the hydrosol fraction of essential oil, 100%), were tested against biofilms formed by five bacterial species, either as monospecies, or as mixed-culture of all species. The tested bacterial species were Staphylococcus simulans and Lactobacillus fermentum (useful technological bacteria), Pseudomonas putida (spoilage bacterium), Salmonella enterica and Listeria monocytogenes (pathogenic bacteria). Biofilms were left to be formed on stainless steel coupons for 5 days at 16 degrees C, before the application of disinfection treatments, for 60 and 180 min. The disinfection efficiency was evaluated by detaching the remaining viable biofilm cells and enumerating them by agar plating, as well as by automated conductance measurements (using Rapid Automated Bacterial Impedance Technique). Both these methods revealed that the essential oil and the hydrosol of S. thymbra exhibited a strong antimicrobial action against both monospecies and mixed-culture biofilms. Surprisingly, the efficiency of the other three acid-base disinfectants was not adequate, although a long antimicrobial treatment was applied (180 min).


The essential oil of S. thymbra (1%), as well as its hydrosol fraction (100%), presents sufficient bactericidal effect on bacterial biofilms formed on stainless steel.


Use of natural antimicrobial agents could provide alternative or supplemented ways for the disinfection of microbial-contaminated industrial surfaces.

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