Hyperspectral fluorescence imaging techniques were investigated for detection of two genera of microbial biofilms on stainless steel material which is commonly used to manufacture food processing equipment. Stainless steel coupons were deposited in nonpathogenic E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella cultures, prepared using M9 minimal medium with casamino acids (M9C), for 6 days at 37 °C. Hyperspectral fluorescence emission images of the biofilm formations on the stainless coupons were acquired from 416 to 700 nm with the use of ultraviolet-A (320–400 nm) excitation.
In general, emission peaks for both bacteria were observed in the blue region at approximately 480 nm and thus provided the highest contrast between the biofilms and background stainless steel coupons. A simple thresholding of the 480 nm image showed significantly larger biofilm regions for E. coli O157:H7 than for Salmonella. Viable cell counts suggested that Salmonella formed significantly higher density biofilm regions than E. coli O157:H7 in M9C medium.
On the basis of principal component analysis (PCA) of the hyperspectral fluorescence images, the second principal component image exhibited the most distinguishable morphological differences for the concentrated biofilm formations between E. coli and Salmonella. E. coli formed granular aggregates of biofilms above the medium on stainless steel while Salmonella formed dense biofilm in the medium-air interface region (pellicle). This investigation demonstrated the feasibility of implementing fluorescence imaging techniques to rapidly screen large surface areas of food processing equipment for bacterial contamination.