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1.6 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES
The safety and quality of cereal grain supplies are adversely impacted by microbiological contamination, with novel interventions required to maximise whole grains safety and stability. The microbiological contaminants of wheat grains and the efficacy of Atmospheric Cold Plasma (ACP) for potential to control these risks were investigated. The evaluations were performed using a contained reactor dielectric barrier discharge (DBD) system; samples were treated for 0–20 min using direct and indirect plasma exposure. Amplicon-based metagenomic analysis using bacterial 16S rRNA gene and fungal 18S rRNA gene with internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region was performed to characterize the change in microbial community composition in response to ACP treatment. The antimicrobial efficacy of ACP against a range of bacterial and fungal contaminants of wheat, was assessed to include individual isolates from grains as challenge pathogens. ACP influenced wheat microbiome composition, with a higher microbial diversity as well as abundance found on the untreated control grain samples. Culture and genomic approaches revealed different trends for mycoflora detection and control. A challenge study demonstrated that using direct mode of plasma exposure with 20 min of treatment significantly reduced the concentration of all pathogens. Overall, reduction levels for B. atrophaeus vegetative cells were higher than for all fungal species tested, whereas B. atrophaeus spores were the most resistant to ACP among all microorganisms tested. Of note, repeating sub-lethal plasma treatment did not induce resistance to ACP in either B. atrophaeus or A. flavus spores. ACP process control could be tailored to address diverse microbiological risks for grain stability and safety.
Los, A. et al. (2020) Effects of Cold Plasma on Wheat Grain Microbiome and Antimicrobial Efficacy Against Challenge Pathogens and their Resistance,International Journal of Food Microbiology 335 (2020) 108889. DOI:10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2020.108889