Understanding the True Power of Natural Compounds Against Germs and Biofilms

Jim Crocker
18th May, 2024

Understanding the True Power of Natural Compounds Against Germs and Biofilms

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • The study by ENEA and the University of Tuscia explored using flow cytometry (FCM) to assess the effectiveness of essential oils (EOs) against foodborne bacteria
  • FCM provided more accurate and repeatable results than traditional culture-based methods, detecting bacteria that other methods might miss
  • Combining FCM with traditional methods can enhance the detection and control of foodborne pathogens, improving food safety
Foodborne pathogens pose significant risks to public health despite advancements in food preservation and safety techniques. The detection and control of these pathogens are crucial for preventing disease outbreaks. A recent study conducted by ENEA, Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development, and the University of Tuscia, has explored a novel approach combining culture-based methods and flow cytometry (FCM) to assess the efficacy of essential oils (EOs) against foodborne bacteria[1]. Flow cytometry is a technology that provides detailed information about bacterial viability and physiology in real-time. This study focused on evaluating the antimicrobial effects of essential oils from thyme, oregano, basil, and lemon on three types of bacteria: Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli, and Pseudomonas fluorescens. These bacteria are known to cause foodborne illnesses and spoilage. The researchers employed FCM alongside traditional culture-based methods to measure the response of bacteria to various concentrations of EOs. FCM was particularly useful in quantifying live, dead, and viable but non-culturable (VBNC) cells. VBNC cells are bacteria that are alive but cannot be cultured using standard laboratory techniques, making them challenging to detect. The study found that FCM provided more accurate and repeatable results compared to the plate-count method, which is a traditional culture-based approach. The FCM results showed higher numbers of viable bacteria, expressed as Active Fluorescent Units (AFUs), indicating that FCM could detect bacteria that plate-count methods might miss. This finding is significant because accurate counting of viable microbial cells is essential in food microbiology to ensure food safety and quality. The use of essential oils as antimicrobial agents is not entirely new. Previous studies have demonstrated the antimicrobial activity of essential oils. For instance, a study on basil essential oil (BEO) showed its inhibitory effect against various microorganisms, particularly Gram-positive bacteria[2]. The current study builds on this knowledge by using FCM to provide a more detailed and accurate assessment of the antimicrobial efficacy of different EOs. The incorporation of FCM into food pathogen detection methods offers several advantages. It allows for high-throughput screening, meaning that large numbers of samples can be analyzed quickly. This capability is crucial for the food industry, where timely detection of pathogens can prevent the spread of foodborne diseases. Additionally, FCM can provide early warning signals, enabling quicker responses to potential contamination. The study also highlights the importance of using multiple detection methods to get a comprehensive understanding of microbial viability. While culture-based methods are beneficial and widely used, they may not always capture the complete picture. Combining these methods with advanced techniques like FCM can enhance the detection and control of foodborne pathogens, ultimately improving food safety. In summary, the research conducted by ENEA and the University of Tuscia demonstrates the potential of flow cytometry as an innovative tool for monitoring bacterial viability and efficacy of antimicrobial agents in the food industry. By providing more accurate and repeatable results, FCM can complement traditional methods and offer a high-throughput solution for ensuring food safety. This approach, combined with the antimicrobial properties of essential oils, presents a promising strategy for controlling foodborne pathogens and reducing the risk of disease outbreaks.



Main Study

1) Flow cytometry: Unravelling the real antimicrobial and antibiofilm efficacy of natural bioactive compounds.

Published 15th May, 2024


Related Studies

2) Basil Essential Oil: Composition, Antimicrobial Properties, and Microencapsulation to Produce Active Chitosan Films for Food Packaging.


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