Bacillus megaterium Spore Germination and Growth Inhibition by a Treatment Combining Heat with Natural Antimicrobials

Paula M. Periago, Raquel Conesa, Begoña Delgado, Pablo S. Fernández and Alfredo Palop*

Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena, Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingeniería Agronómica (ETSIA), Dpto. Ingeniería de Alimentos y del Equipamiento Agrícola, Paseo Alfonso XIII 48, E-30203 Cartagena, Murcia, Spain

Article history:

Received August 30, 2004
Accepted September 15, 2005

Key words:

microorganisms, combined processes, thermal treatment, natural antimicrobials


Natural antimicrobials are an alternative to the use of chemically synthesized preservatives and other technological treatments. They have the advantage of not being rejected by consumers because of their natural origin. However, prior to their usage at a food factory scale, their precise effects on microorganisms have to be known. Nisin, a bacteriocin, and carvacrol and thymol, phenolic compounds present in the essential oil fraction of Oreganum and Thymus plants, have been shown to inhibit growth of different bacteria. This research was conducted to show the effect of a thermal treatment, applied previously, on the growth of B. megaterium cells in a culture medium with and without nisin, carvacrol and thymol. It has been shown that a thermal treatment able to kill 90 % of the spore population of B. megaterium had little effect on the growth of the survivors in nutrient broth at 30 °C. Nisin, in a concentration of 0.05 mM, did not affect greatly the growth of unheated B. megaterium. When the same concentration of nisin was applied to the survivors of the heat treatment, lag phase was further increased and growth rate decreased. Thymol, applied at a concentration of 0.6 mM, increased the lag phase duration almost three times, although it did not change the growth rate. Although carvacrol, at the same concentration (0.6 mM), did reduce the growth rate to half its original value, it did not increase the lag phase duration significantly (only twice), resulting in a quite similar growth curve. The combination of thymol and carvacrol at these high doses (0.6 mM) resulted in a further increase of the lag phase and significant decrease of the growth rate. When carvacrol and/or thymol were combined with a previous thermal treatment (able to kill 90 % of the population), the growth of the survivors was inhibited for at least seven days. Therefore a combination of moderate conditions could be effective to control spoilage by sporeforming bacteria.

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