Main content area

Thermal resistance of Clostridium difficile endospores in dairy compost upon exposure to wet and dry heat treatments

Dharmasena, M., Wei, T., Bridges, W.C., Jr, Jiang, X.
Journal of applied microbiology 2019 v.127 no.1 pp. 274-283
Clostridium difficile, composting, composts, endospores, feedstocks, guidelines, heat, heat tolerance, heat treatment, temperature, water content
AIM: Thermal resistance of Clostridium difficile endospores in finished dairy compost was compared at 55 and 65°C under wet and dry heat conditions. METHODS AND RESULTS: A three‐strain cocktail of C. difficile endospores was inoculated into dairy compost to a final concentration of c. 5·5 log CFU per gram and the moisture content (MC) of the compost was adjusted to be 20, 30 and 40%. For the dry heat treatment at 55 and 65°C, the compost samples were placed in an environmental chamber, whereas for the wet heat treatment, the inoculated compost samples were placed in a tray submerged in a water bath. The MCs of composts were maintained well throughout the wet heat treatment while the dry heat treatment reduced the MCs of composts to <10% by the end of come‐up time. During the come‐up time, the log endospore reductions at a selected temperature were not significantly different in compost with three selected MCs, in each heat treatment. During the holding time, endospore counts reduced by <0·5 log CFU per gram at 55 and 65°C of dry heat treatment, whereas 0·7–0·8 and 0·6–3·0 log CFU per gram reductions were observed at 55 and 65°C in wet heat treatment respectively. CONCLUSION: The recommended minimum composting guidelines were not sufficient to reduce C. difficile endospore counts to an undetectable level (five endospores per gram). Increasing the temperature of thermophilic phase to 65°C, and maintaining higher MCs of composting feedstocks have significant (P < 0·05) effects on the endospore inactivation. SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPACT OF THE STUDY: Our study identified factors that significantly affecting the thermal resistance of C. difficile endospores during composting, and the results suggest the current composting guidelines need to be amended in order to reduce the dissemination of C. difficile endospores in agricultural environment.