Selective reactivity of monochloramine with extracellular matrix components affects the disinfection of biofilm and detached clusters.

Research paper by Zheng Z Xue, Woo Hyoung WH Lee, Kimberly M KM Coburn, Youngwoo Y Seo

Indexed on: 01 Mar '14Published on: 01 Mar '14Published in: Environmental Science & Technology


The efficiency of monochloramine disinfection was dependent on the quantity and composition of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) in biofilms, as monochloramine has a selective reactivity with proteins over polysaccharides. Biofilms with protein-based (Pseudomonas putida) and polysaccharide based EPS (Pseudomonas aeruginosa), as well as biofilms with varied amount of polysaccharide EPS (wild-type and mutant P. aeruginosa), were compared. The different reactivity of EPS components with monochloramine influenced disinfectant penetration, biofilm inactivation, as well as the viability of detached clusters. Monochloramine transport profiling measured by a chloramine-sensitive microelectrode revealed a broader diffusion boundary layer between bulk and biofilm surface in the P. putida biofilm compared to those of P. aeruginosa biofilms. The reaction with proteins in P. putida EPS multiplied both the time and the monochloramine mass required to achieve a full biofilm penetration. Cell viability in biofilms was also spatially influenced by monochloramine diffusion and reaction within biofilms, showing a lower survival in the surface section and a higher persistence in the middle section of the P. putida biofilm compared to the P. aeruginosa biofilms. While polysaccharide EPS promoted biofilm cell viability by obstructing monochloramine reactive sites on bacterial cells, protein EPS hindered monochloramine penetration by reacting with monochloramine and reduced its concentration within biofilms. Furthermore, the persistence of bacterial cells detached from biofilm (over 70% for P. putida and ∼40% for polysaccharide producing P. aeruginosa) suggested that currently recommended monochloramine residual levels may underestimate the risk of water quality deterioration caused by biofilm detachment.