Chapter 10 : Spore Resistance Properties

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The extreme resistance of spores of members of the and orders is probably the property most closely associated with these spores. In the past, this extreme resistance contributed to claims for spontaneous generation and, in more recent years, has contributed to the applied importance of spores in a number of different areas including the following. (i) The food industry. Given that spores of a number of species are ubiquitous in the environment, they routinely contaminate foodstuffs. Since spores of many species are vectors for food spoilage and food-borne disease, the food industry commits significant resources to eliminating spores in order to make foods sterile, in particular to eliminate extremely dangerous spores such as those of ( ). Indeed, many of the requirements for food sterilization regimens in the United States are designed to completely inactivate spores. (ii) The medical products industry. Just as in the food industry, spores present similar concerns in the medical products industry, including the manufacture of medical devices and parenteral drugs, again because of the involvement of spores in a number of human diseases. (iii) The health care industry. There is an increasing prevalence of disease due to in hospital and long-term nursing care facilities, largely because of the resistance of spores and thus their persistence in patient care environments unless stringent environmental decontamination regimens are followed. (iv) Vaccine development. There is increasing interest in spores as carriers of proteins important as vaccines ( ), in large part because of spores’ extreme stability to normal and even extreme environmental conditions. This may allow the delivery of vaccines to areas where cold storage is difficult and is facilitated by utilizing the spore coat as a means to deliver immunogens. (v) Probiotics. Since spores are dormant, as such, they will not be probiotics. However, the administration of spores with their resistance to low pH conditions in the stomach is a route to effectively deliver potentially beneficial bacteria to the lower gastrointestinal tract ( ). Notably, it is the spore’s resistance to stomach acidity that is the reason that the oral route is the major mechanism for infection. (vi) Biological warfare. While the disease-causing potential of is one reason that this organism has come to the fore as a biological weapon, in particular of bioterror (S. L. Welkos, unpublished data), the major reason for this organism’s visibility in this area is that spores are so resistant. This makes their dispersal either in water or as an aerosol relatively simple and ensures that these spores will persist in contaminated environments and will thus require stringent decontamination methods for their elimination.

Citation: Setlow P. 2016. Spore Resistance Properties, p 201-215. In Driks A, Eichenberger P (ed), The Bacterial Spore: from Molecules to Systems. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.TBS-0003-2012
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Figure 1

Schematic structure of a spore. Sizes of various layers are not drawn to scale; in many species, several different coat layers can be seen; spores of some species do not have an exosporium.

Citation: Setlow P. 2016. Spore Resistance Properties, p 201-215. In Driks A, Eichenberger P (ed), The Bacterial Spore: from Molecules to Systems. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.TBS-0003-2012
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Image of Figure 2
Figure 2

Structure of dipicolinic acid (DPA). Note that, at physiological pH, the two carboxyl groups will be ionized and the resultant carboxylate groups can chelate divalent cations.

Citation: Setlow P. 2016. Spore Resistance Properties, p 201-215. In Driks A, Eichenberger P (ed), The Bacterial Spore: from Molecules to Systems. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.TBS-0003-2012
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Figure 3

Structures of major photoproduct formed in growing cells (CPDs) and dormant spores (SP). The structures shown are as if these were formed between adjacent bases, with the nitrogen normally linked to the sugar in nucleosides shown with a hydrogen atom attached. The CPD shown is the major one, formed between two adjacent thymidine residues on the same DNA strand, although CPDs can also form between two adjacent cytidine residues and between adjacent cytidine and thymidine residues. SP is formed only between adjacent thymidine residues.

Citation: Setlow P. 2016. Spore Resistance Properties, p 201-215. In Driks A, Eichenberger P (ed), The Bacterial Spore: from Molecules to Systems. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.TBS-0003-2012
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Generic image for table
Table 1

Resistance of spores and growing cells of to various agents

Citation: Setlow P. 2016. Spore Resistance Properties, p 201-215. In Driks A, Eichenberger P (ed), The Bacterial Spore: from Molecules to Systems. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.TBS-0003-2012
Generic image for table
Table 2

Mechanisms of spore killing by various agents

Citation: Setlow P. 2016. Spore Resistance Properties, p 201-215. In Driks A, Eichenberger P (ed), The Bacterial Spore: from Molecules to Systems. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.TBS-0003-2012
Generic image for table
Table 3

Factors important in spore resistance to various agents

Citation: Setlow P. 2016. Spore Resistance Properties, p 201-215. In Driks A, Eichenberger P (ed), The Bacterial Spore: from Molecules to Systems. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.TBS-0003-2012

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