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Understanding of multispecies biofilms in the food industry is indispensible to control biofilm related food safety and quality issues

Project description

Multispecies biofilms in the food industry

Studies on bacterial biofilms on food contact surfaces in food industries have revealed contamination with many bacterial species, including spoilers and spore-forming bacteria, which remain largely unaffected even after cleaning. The EU-funded Multispeciesbiofilm project will investigate the biofilm-forming capacity of these species and unravel interactions among different bacterial groups in multispecies biofilm combinations, particularly involving spore formers and non-spore-forming bacteria, such as Pseudomonas, Stenotrophomonas, and Staphylococcus species. The aim is to determine the influence of simulated cleaning and disinfection on the integrity of these biofilms on stainless steel in a bioreactor-based biofilm model. This multidisciplinary initiative will involve metatranscriptomics, confocal laser scanning microscopy, and a biosensor to study bacterial behaviour in mixed biofilm communities at the molecular and structural levels.


Dairy industry is one of the largest food manufacturing sectors of Europe. Stainless steel is extensively used throughout the milk processing chain and is subjected to fouling leading to biofilm formation. Biofilms in the dairy industry pose a serious threat to the quality and safety of food products. Most studies on bacterial biofilms of the food industry have focused on single or dual species biofilms, negating the role of multispecies bacterial interaction, which is now considered to be a fundamental approach in studying biofilm community structure, spatial organization and factors underlying the biofilm formation on surfaces. Results of a recent project
show that the food contact surfaces in the dairy industry in Belgium are contaminated with many different bacterial species, including several spoilers and spore-forming bacteria, which remain largely unaffected even after cleaning-in-place (CIP). Biofilm forming capacity of many of these species and their interaction, particularly the interaction between sporeformers and other non spore-forming bacteria such as Pseudomonas, Stenotrophomonas and Staphylococcus will be investigated. The objective is to model multispecies biofilms in different species combinations and monitor their behaviour and influence on each other from initial adherence to biofilm formation on a steel surface under conditions simulating real manufacturing operations. We plan to study the influence of simulated cleaning and disinfection techniques on the integrity of single and multispecies biofilms on stainless steel in a bioreactor based biofilm model. This project is multidisciplinary involving meta-transcriptomics, confocal laser scanning microscopy and a biosensor. This proposal includes a strong linkage opportunity between the host and two secondment partners. Successful completion of this project will lead to more fundamental understanding of the formation of biofilms in food industrial practice.


Net EU contribution
€ 178 320,00
9820 Merelbeke

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Vlaams Gewest Prov. Oost-Vlaanderen Arr. Gent
Activity type
Research Organisations
Total cost
€ 178 320,00