Adhesion of Bacillus spores and Escherichia coli cells to inert surfaces: role of surface hydrophobicity

Can J Microbiol. 2002 Aug;48(8):728-38. doi: 10.1139/w02-063.


The ability of bacterial spores and vegetative cells to adhere to inert surfaces was investigated by means of the number of adherent spores (Bacillus cereus and Bacillus subtilis spores) and Escherichia coli cells and their resistance to cleaning or rinsing procedures (adhesion strength). Six materials (glass, stainless steel, polyethylene high density (PEHD), polyamide-6, polyvinyl chloride, and Teflon) were tested. Slight differences in the number of adherent spores (less than 1 log unit) were observed between materials, but a higher number of adherent E. coli cells was found on the hydrophobic materials PEHD and Teflon. Conversely, the resistance of both B. cereus and B. subtilis spores to a cleaning procedure was significantly affected by the material. Hydrophobic materials were harder to clean. The topography parameter derived from the Abbott-Firestone curve, RVK, and, to a lesser extent, the widely used roughness parameters RA (average roughness) and Rz (maximal roughness), were related to the number of adherent cells. Lastly, the soiling level as well as the adhesion strength were shown to depend largely on the microorganism. The number of adhering B. cereus hydrophobic spores and their resistance to a cleaning procedure were found to be 10 times greater than those of the B. subtilis hydrophilic spores. Escherichia coli was loosely bound to all the materials tested, even after 24 h biofilm formation.

MeSH terms

  • Bacillus cereus / physiology*
  • Bacillus subtilis / physiology*
  • Bacterial Adhesion*
  • Biofilms / growth & development
  • Caprolactam / analogs & derivatives*
  • Caprolactam / chemistry
  • Escherichia coli / growth & development
  • Escherichia coli / physiology*
  • Escherichia coli / ultrastructure
  • Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Polyethylene / chemistry
  • Polymers / chemistry
  • Solvents / chemistry
  • Solvents / metabolism
  • Spores, Bacterial / physiology
  • Spores, Bacterial / ultrastructure
  • Stainless Steel / chemistry
  • Surface Properties


  • Polymers
  • Solvents
  • Stainless Steel
  • nylon 6
  • Caprolactam
  • Polyethylene