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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1988 Oct;54(10):2492-9.

Inactivation of biofilm bacteria.

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American Water Works Service Company, Inc., Belleville Laboratory, Illinois 62220.


The current project was developed to examine inactivation of biofilm bacteria and to characterize the interaction of biocides with pipe surfaces. Unattached bacteria were quite susceptible to the variety of disinfectants tested. Viable bacterial counts were reduced 99% by exposure to 0.08 mg of hypochlorous acid (pH 7.0) per liter (1 to 2 degrees C) for 1 min. For monochloramine, 94 mg/liter was required to kill 99% of the bacteria within 1 min. These results were consistent with those found by other investigators. Biofilm bacteria grown on the surfaces of granular activated carbon particles, metal coupons, or glass microscope slides were 150 to more than 3,000 times more resistant to hypochlorous acid (free chlorine, pH 7.0) than were unattached cells. In contrast, resistance of biofilm bacteria to monochloramine disinfection ranged from 2- to 100-fold more than that of unattached cells. The results suggested that, relative to inactivation of unattached bacteria, monochloramine was better able to penetrate and kill biofilm bacteria than free chlorine. For free chlorine, the data indicated that transport of the disinfectant into the biofilm was a major rate-limiting factor. Because of this phenomenon, increasing the level of free chlorine did not increase disinfection efficiency. Experiments where equal weights of disinfectants were used suggested that the greater penetrating power of monochloramine compensated for its limited disinfection activity. These studies showed that monochloramine was as effective as free chlorine for inactivation of biofilm bacteria. The research provides important insights into strategies for control of biofilm bacteria.

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