Gaining Research Experiences from Participation in Microbiological Projects

Team Mentor:

Dr. Xiuping Jiang, Associate Professor,
Dept. Food Science and Human Nutrition


  • Determine the microbiological safety of commercial nutrient supplements and other nutraceutical products.

  • Develop safe fermented food products using microbes.

  • Learn the techniques and skills in microbiological analysis of food or non-food samples and report on the findings.

Topic: Developing Antimicrobial Mixture for Foodborne Pathogen Control

Students: Ellison Taylor, Chris Covey, Allison Setser, Sharbel Elhage, Courtney Evans

Abstract: Some strains of Escherichia coli are pathogenic and cause human illnesses. This bacterium can be found in food, water and the environment. The goal of this experiment was to identify if a synergistic relationship exists among different classes of antimicrobials in inhibiting E. coli that could be applied as a wash solution in the food industry. The inquiry focused on two antimicrobials, lactic and caprylic acids. Caprylic acid is a medium chain fatty acid that affects the growth, amino acid transport, and oxygen consumption of E. coli among other bacteria. In this study, both the Kirby-Bauer disk and well tests were used to test the potency of these organic acids against E. coli. The results of the two inhibition tests reiterate previous findings that lactic acid is consistently effective at 3% and 5% in preventing the growth of E. coli. However, caprylic acid was almost completely ineffective in inhibiting E. coli using both tests, which contradicted previous findings as reported in the literature. Therefore, caprylic acid has been eliminated from this study and other antimicrobials are currently under evaluation.