Influence of desiccation on the sensitivity of Cronobacter spp. to lactoferrin or nisin in broth and powdered infant formula

Anas A. Al-Nabulsi, Tareq M. Osaili, Murad A. Al-Holy, Reyad R. Shaker, Mutamed M. Ayyash, Amin N. Olaimat, Richard A. Holley

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45 Citations (Scopus)


Although outbreaks caused by Cronobacter spp. (Enterobacter sakazakii) are rare, infections by this organism have a case-fatality rate which may reach 80%. Powdered infant milk formula (PIMF) is considered a major source for human infection with Cronobacter spp. The organism has the capability to survive in dry environments for long periods (~ 2 years). Current interest in the use of natural antimicrobials including lactoferrin (LF) and nisin has developed because of the desire for preservative-free food products. The objective of the present study was to evaluate the antimicrobial activity of bovine LF or nisin against undesiccated and desiccated Cronobacter spp. cells in 0.2% peptone water (PW) and reconstituted PIMF at different temperatures. In 0.2% PW, 2.5 mg/ml LF was able to inactivate 4 log10 CFU/ml of undesiccated cells of Cronobacter spp. in 4 h at 37 °C but at lower temperatures, higher concentrations of LF as well as longer exposure were needed to achieve the same effect as at 37 °C. Similarly, the effect of nisin against undesiccated cells of Cronobacter spp. was concentration and temperature dependent in 0.2% PW. It was found that 1500 IU/ml caused a 4 log10 CFU/ml reduction of undesiccated cells of Cronobacter spp. at 21 °C and 37 °C. Desiccated Cronobacter spp. cells in 0.2% PW were more sensitive to LF action than were undesiccated cells. A 4 log10 CFU/ml reduction was obtained with 2.5 mg/ml LF after 1 h at 21 and 37 °C or 8 h at 10 °C. In contrast, desiccated cells of Cronobacter spp. were more resistant to nisin. Furthermore, neither LF nor nisin had detectable antimicrobial activity against desiccated or undesiccated Cronobacter spp. in reconstituted PIFM. Heating at 55 °C for 5 min with nisin in reconstituted PIFM did not enhance the antimicrobial activity of nisin. Unexpectedly, nisin appeared to protect Cronobacter spp. from the damaging effects of heat treatment. The reduced antimicrobial activity of LF and nisin in reconstituted PIMF was potentially explained by the higher concentration of Ca2+, Mg2+ and Fe3+ in the latter.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-226
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Food Microbiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 31 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Bactericidal action
  • Cronobacter spp.
  • Infant milk formula
  • Lactoferrin
  • Natural antimicrobial
  • Nisin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Microbiology


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