Inhibition and Inactivation of Escherichia coli O157:H7 Biofilms by Selenium

J Food Prot. 2018 Jun;81(6):926-933. doi: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-17-427.


The present study investigated the efficacy of selenium (Se) in reduction of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) exopolysaccharide (EPS) synthesis, inhibition of biofilm formation at 25 and 4°C on polystyrene surface, and inactivation of mature EHEC biofilms in combination with hot water. Sterile 96-well polystyrene plates inoculated with EHEC (∼6.0 log CFU per well) were treated with a subinhibitory concentration (SIC) of Se, and biofilms were allowed to mature at 4 and 25°C for 96 h. Biofilm-associated bacterial population was determined by scraping and plating, whereas the extent of EPS production was determined using ruthenium red staining assay. Solid surface assay was used to study the effect of Se on early attachment of EHEC cells to polystyrene. The efficacy of Se in rapid inactivation of preformed, mature EHEC biofilm was investigated by treating biofilms on polystyrene plates with the MBC of Se in combination with hot water at 80°C with a contact time of 0 min, 30 s, 2 min, and 5 min. Furthermore, the effect of Se on EHEC biofilm architecture was visualized using confocal microscopy, whereas the effect of Se on EHEC biofilm genes was determined using real-time quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR). Finally, the potential feasibility of coating stainless steel surfaces with Se nanoparticles to inhibit EHEC biofilm formation was studied. Se reduced early attachment of planktonic cells, biofilm formation, and EPS synthesis in EHEC ( P < 0.05). Se in combination with hot water reduced biofilm-associated bacterial counts by 3 to 4 log CFU/mL at 5 min of exposure compared with the control ( P < 0.05). However, hot water treatment alone decreased biofilm-associated bacterial counts by only 1.0 log CFU/mL. RT-qPCR results revealed that Se down-regulated the transcription of critical genes associated with biofilm synthesis in EHEC ( P < 0.05). The results collectively suggest that Se could potentially be used to control EHEC biofilms in food processing environments, but appropriate applications need to be validated.

Keywords: Biofilms; Escherichia coli; Selenium.

MeSH terms

  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli* / drug effects
  • Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli* / physiology
  • Food-Processing Industry*
  • Selenium / pharmacology*
  • Stainless Steel


  • Stainless Steel
  • Selenium