Enhanced antimicrobial activity based on a synergistic combination of sublethal levels of stresses induced by UV-A light and organic acids

Erick F. de Oliveira, Andrea Cossu, Rohan V. Tikekar, Nitin Nitin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Scopus citations


The reduction of microbial load in food and water systems is critical for their safety and shelf life. Conventionally, physical processes such as heat or light are used for the rapid inactivation of microbes, while natural compounds such as lactic acid may be used as preservatives after the initial physical process. This study demonstrates the enhanced and rapid inactivation of bacteria based on a synergistic combination of sublethal levels of stresses induced by UV-A light and two food-grade organic acids. A reduction of 4.7 ± 0.5 log CFU/ml in Escherichia coli O157:H7 was observed using a synergistic combination of UV-A light, gallic acid (GA), and lactic acid (LA), while the individual treatments and the combination of individual organic acids with UV-A light resulted in a reduction of less than 1 log CFU/ml. Enhanced inactivation of bacteria on the surfaces of lettuce and spinach leaves was also observed based on the synergistic combination. Mechanistic investigations suggested that the treatment with a synergistic combination of GA plus LA plus UV-A (GA+LA+UV-A) resulted in significant increases in membrane permeability and intracellular thiol oxidation and affected the metabolic machinery of E. coli. In addition, the antimicrobial activity of the synergistic combination of GA+LA+UV-A was effective only against metabolically active E. coli O157:H7. In summary, this study illustrates the potential of simultaneously using a combination of sublethal concentrations of natural antimicrobials and a low level of physical stress in the form of UV-A light to inactivate bacteria in water and food systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00383-17
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017



  • Food-grade antimicrobial
  • Gallic acid
  • Lactic acid
  • Microbial inactivation
  • Sublethal stress
  • Synergism
  • UV-A light

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Ecology

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