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Survival of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis in the intermediate and final digestion products of biogas plants

Mazzone, P., Corneli, S., Di Paolo, A., Maresca, C., Felici, A., Biagetti, M., Ciullo, M., Sebastiani, C., Pezzotti, G., Leo, S., Ricchi, M., Arrigoni, N.
Journal of applied microbiology 2018 v.125 no.1 pp. 36-44
Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis, anaerobic conditions, anaerobic digestion, biogas, dairy herds, detection limit, fermenters, fertilizers, liquids, pollution, slurries
AIMS: To evaluate the survival of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP) during anaerobic digestion (AD), we studied two different biogas plants loaded with manure and slurry from paratuberculosis‐infected dairy herds. METHODS AND RESULTS: Both plants were operating under mesophilic conditions, the first with a single digester and the second with a double digester. Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis detection was performed by sampling each stage of the process, specifically the prefermenter, fermenter, liquid digestate and solid digestate stages, for 11 months. In both plants, MAP was isolated from the prefermenter stage. Only the final products, the solid and liquid digestates, of the one‐stage plant showed viable MAP, while no viable MAP was detected in the digestates of the two‐stage plant. CONCLUSIONS: Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis showed a significant decrease during subsequent steps of the AD process, particularly in the two‐stage plant. We suggest that the second digester maintained the digestate under anaerobic conditions for a longer period of time, thus reducing MAP survival and MAP load under the culture detection limit. SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPACT OF THE STUDY: Our data are unable to exclude the presence of MAP in the final products of the biogas plants, particularly those products from the single digester; therefore, the use of digestates as fertilizers is a real concern related to the possible environmental contamination with MAP.