Modelling time to growth of Escherichia coli as a function of water activity and undissociated lactic acid

Lett Appl Microbiol. 2010 Mar;50(3):308-13. doi: 10.1111/j.1472-765X.2009.02793.x. Epub 2009 Dec 24.


Aims: To model the effect of water activity (a(w)) and concentration of undissociated lactic acid (HLac) on the time to growth (TTG) and the growth/no growth boundary of acid-adapted generic Escherichia coli, used as model organisms for Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC).

Methods and results: For each of two E. coli strains, the TTG in brain heart infusion broth at 27 degrees C was estimated at 30 combinations of a(w) (range 0.945-0.995) and concentration of HLac (range 0-6.9 mol m(-3)) by using an automated turbidity reader. Survival analysis was used to develop a model predicting the TTG and the growth/no growth boundary.

Conclusions: The present model can be used to predict the TTG and to indicate the growth/no growth boundary of acid-adapted E. coli strains as a function of a(w) and concentration of HLac.

Significance and impact of the study: Fermented food products have been implicated as sources of STEC in several outbreaks. The study results are relevant for modelling of growth of STEC in fermented food and can be used in microbiological risk assessments or in the design and validation of food-production processes.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Phenomena
  • Culture Media
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects
  • Escherichia coli / growth & development*
  • Food Microbiology
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Lactic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Shiga-Toxigenic Escherichia coli / growth & development
  • Survival Analysis
  • Water*


  • Culture Media
  • Water
  • Lactic Acid