Characterization of biofilm-forming capacity and resistance to sanitizers of a range of E. coli O26 pathotypes from clinical cases and cattle in Australia

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Lajhar, Salma A
Brownlie, Jeremy
Barlow, Robert
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Background: The formation of biofilms and subsequent encasement of bacterial cells in a complex matrix can enhance resistance to antimicrobials and sterilizing agents making these organisms difficult to eradicate and control. The aim of this study was to evaluate and compare the capacity of 40 E. coli O26 isolates of enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC, n = 27), potential EHEC (pEHEC, n = 3), atypical enteropathogenic E. coli (aEPEC, n = 8) and non-toxigenic E. coli (NTEC, n = 2) from human and cattle sources to form biofilms on different surfaces, and determine whether extracellular matrix (ECM) components (cellulose, curli), motility, prophage insertion in mlrA and cell surface hydrophobicity could influence biofilm formation. Finally, the influence of biofilm formation on the sensitivity of isolates to quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs; Profoam, Kwiksan 22) and peracetic acid-based sanitizer (Topactive Des.) for 2 min on polystyrene plate were also evaluated.

Results: Biofilm production on one surface may not indicate biofilm formation on a different surface. Biofilm was formed by different pathotypes on polystyrene (70%), stainless steel (87.5%) and glass slides (95%), however only 50% demonstrated pellicle formation. EHEC isolates were significantly more likely to form a pellicle at the air-liquid interface and biofilms on polystyrene surface at 48 h than aEPEC. Strains that don’t produce ECM (curli or cellulose), harbor a prophage insertion in mlrA, and are non-motile have lower biofilm forming capacities than those isolates possessing combinations of these attributes. Hydrophobicity had no impact on biofilm formation. After 2 min exposure, none of the disinfectants tested were able to completely inactivate all cells within a biofilm regardless of pathotypes and the amount of biofilm formed.

Conclusion: Pathotypes of E. coli O26 showed varying capacities to form biofilms, however, most EHEC strains had the capacity to form biofilm on all surfaces and at the air-liquid interface under the conditions used in this study. Biofilms provided a protective effect to E. coli O26 strains against the three sanitizers, previously shown to successfully control the growth of their planktonic counterparts. Whether the characteristics of biofilm forming and non-biofilm forming strains observed in this study reflect their attributes within the food and meat-processing environments is unknown. Further studies that represent the food and meat-processing environments are required.

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BMC Microbiology

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© The Author(s). 2018 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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