Variables to be considered when assessing the photocatalytic destruction of bacterial pathogens

T. P Tim Cushnie, Peter K J Robertson, Simon Officer, Pat M. Pollard, Cathy McCullagh, Jeanette M C Robertson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


The current study sought to assess the importance of three common variables on the outcome of TiO2 photocatalysis experiments with bacteria. Factors considered were (a) ability of test species to withstand osmotic pressure, (b) incubation period of agar plates used for colony counts following photocatalysis and (c) chemical nature of suspension medium used for bacteria and TiO2. Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Salmonella ser. Typhimurium and Pseudomonas aeruginosa were found to vary greatly in their ability to withstand osmotic pressure, raising the possibility that osmotic lysis may be contributing to loss of viability in some photocatalytic disinfection studies. Agar plate incubation time was also found to influence results, as bacteria treated with UV light only grew more slowly than those treated with a combination of UV and TiO2. The chemical nature of the suspension medium used was found to have a particularly pronounced effect upon results. Greatest antibacterial activity was detected when aqueous sodium chloride solution was utilised, with ∼1 × 106 CFU mL-1 S. aureus being completely killed after 60 min. Moderate activity was observed when distilled water was employed with bacteria being killed after 2 h and 30 min, and no antibacterial activity at all was detected when aqueous tryptone solution was used. Interestingly, the antibacterial activity of UV light on its own appeared to be very much reduced in experiments where aqueous sodium chloride was employed instead of distilled water. 

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1374-1378
Number of pages5
Issue number10
Early online date19 Dec 2008
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009


  • Antibacterial
  • Bacterial species
  • Incubation time
  • Osmolarity
  • Suspension medium
  • Titanium dioxide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Chemistry(all)


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