Title page for ETD etd-04242001-100624

Type of Document Dissertation
Author King, Robin K.
Author's Email Address roking@vt.edu
URN etd-04242001-100624
Title The Presence of Pathogenic Bacteria in Recirculating Aquaculture System Biofilms and their Response to Various Sanitizers
Degree PhD
Department Food Science and Technology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Flick, George J. Jr. Committee Chair
Boardman, Gregory D. Committee Member
Coale, Charles W. Jr. Committee Member
Pierson, Merle D. Committee Member
Smith, Stephen A. Committee Member
  • sodium hypochlorite
  • peracetic acid
  • ozone
  • quaternary ammonium compounds
  • recirculating aquaculture
  • green fluorescent protein
  • Biofilms
Date of Defense 2001-04-13
Availability unrestricted

Robin K. King


Recirculating aquaculture offers a prospect for successful fish farming, but this form of aquaculture presents a great potential for pathogenic microorganisms to become established in the system through the formation of biofilms. Biofilms are capable of forming on all aquaculture system components, incorporating the various microflora present in the water. Pathogenic microorganisms released from the biofilms are capable of causing recurring exposure to disease in both fish and humans. With the increased consumption of raw and rare fish, the presence of these bacteria in or on the fish could lead to ingestion of pathogens. There is also the possibility of cross-contamination during processing. The objectives of this study were to increase the understanding of pathogen incorporation into biofilms in recirculating aquaculture systems and to determine the effectiveness of various sanitizers in eliminating biofilms.

Seven freshwater and two saltwater facilities were sampled, with eight different types of materials tested. Pathogenic bacteria were identified using Bacteriological Analytical Manual methods and rapid commercial test kits. Most of the pathogenic bacteria identified were opportunistic organisms ubiquitous in an aquatic environment. The most significant human pathogens were Bacillus cereus, the Shigella species and the Vibrio species. The major piscine pathogens of concern were Photobacterium damsela, the Vibrio species, and Aeromonas hydrophila. The most significant variation in biofilm pathogens was observed between facilities and not construction material.

Buna-N rubber, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), chlorinated PVC, glass, fiberglass and stainless steel disks were suspended in 79.2 liter (20 gallon) aquariums stocked with Nile tilapia (Oreochromus niloticus). The tanks were inoculated with a known amount of green fluorescent protein (GFP) modified Escherichia coli and samples were removed on days 1,3, 7 and 15. The modified E. coli were isolated on Luria Broth Agar and plate counts were performed under ultraviolet light. There was no significant difference in the growth of the surrogate pathogen on the different materials. The GFP E. coli was isolated in the largest numbers 24 hours after inoculation of the tanks, with an approximate 1-log decrease after day 1. Days 3, 7, and 15 showed equivalent growth of the target organism.

Two sets of disks were suspended in another six 79.2 liter (20 gallon) aquariums. The tanks were inoculated with a known amount of the surrogate pathogen, GFP E. coli, and after 24 hours one set of disks was removed from each tank. The second set of disks was removed and treated by spraying with water, alkaline cleanser, sodium hypochlorite, quaternary ammonium compound, or peracetic acid. Ozone was bubbled directly into one tank to treat another set of disks. The modified E. coli were isolated and counted. Total aerobic plate counts and Enterobacteriaceae counts were performed. Statistical analysis indicated that the type of material had no significant affect on the effectiveness of the sanitizers. It was determined that sodium hypochlorite (99.4591 overall reduction) and peracetic acid (98.8461 % overall reduction) were the most effective sanitizers overall, and ozone (32.9332 % overall reduction) was the least effective.

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