Activity of Essential Oils Against Bacillus subtilis Spores

  • Lawrence, Hayley A. (Environment and Biotechnology Centre, Faculty of Life and Social Sciences, Swinburne University of Technology) ;
  • Palombo, Enzo A. (Environment and Biotechnology Centre, Faculty of Life and Social Sciences, Swinburne University of Technology)
  • Published : 2009.12.31


Alternative methods for controlling bacterial endospore contamination are desired in a range of industries and applications. Attention has recently turned to natural products, such as essential oils, which have sporicidal activity. In this study, a selection of essential oils was investigated to identify those with activity against Bacillus subtilis spores. Spores were exposed to 13 essential oils, and surviving spores were enumerated. Cardamom, tea tree, and juniper leaf oils were the most effective, reducing the number of viable spores by 3 logs at concentrations above 1%. Sporicidal activity was enhanced at high temperatures ($60^{\circ}C$) or longer exposure times (up to 1 week). Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis identified the components of the active essential oils. However, none of the major oil components exhibited equivalent activity to the whole oils. The fact that oil components, either alone or in combination, did not show the same level of sporicidal activity as the complete oils suggested that minor components may be involved, or that these act synergistically with major components. Scanning electron microscopy was used to examine spores after exposure to essential oils and suggested that leakage of spore contents was the likely mode of sporicidal action. Our data have shown that essential oils exert sporicidal activity and may be useful in applications where bacterial spore reduction is desired.


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