Physiological responses of bacteria in biofilms to disinfection.


In situ enumeration methods using fluorescent probes and a radioisotope labelling technique were applied to evaluate physiological changes of Klebsiella pneumoniae within biofilms after disinfection treatment. Chlorine (0.25 mg of free chlorine per liter [pH 7.2]) and monochloramine (1 mg/liter [pH 9.0]) were employed as disinfectants in the study. Two fluorgenic compounds, 5-cyano-2,3-ditolyl tetrazolium chloride and rhodamine 123, and tritiated uridine incorporation were chosen for assessment of physiological activities. Results obtained by these methods were compared with those from the plate count and direct viable count methods. 5-Cyano-2,3-ditolyl tetrazolium chloride is an indicator of bacterial respiratory activity, rhodamine 123 is incorporated into bacteria in response to transmembrane potential, and the incorporation of uridine represents the global RNA turnover rate. The results acquired by these methods following disinfection exposure showed a range of responses and suggested different physiological reactions in biofilms exposed to chlorine and monochloramine. The direct viable count response and respiratory activity were affected more by disinfection than were the transmembrane potential and RNA turnover rate on the basis of comparable efficiency as evaluated by plate count enumeration. Information revealed by these approaches can provide different physiological insights that may be used in evaluating the efficacy of biofilm disinfection.

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