Inactivation and injury of Escherichia coli in a copper water storage vessel: effects of temperature and pH


Copper has been used as a disinfectant since ancient times and recent research has demonstrated that antimicrobial copper surfaces may have practical applications in healthcare and related areas. The present study was carried out to establish the effects of temperature and pH on inactivation and sub-lethal injury of Escherichia coli in water stored in a copper vessel, to determine the operational limits of the process in terms of these variables. To investigate the effects of temperature, a bacterial suspension at pH 7.0 was stored for up to 48 h in copper vessels at 5, 15, 25 and 35°C. For pH, a bacterial suspension was stored at 30°C for up to 48 h in copper vessels at pH 6.0, 7.0, 8.0 and 9.0. Both temperature and pH had substantial effects on inactivation and injury, with the fastest inactivation observed at elevated temperature and at pH values furthest from neutrality, while the greatest amount of sub-lethal injury, manifest as sensitivity to conventional aerobic enumeration, was observed at a temperature of 35°C. These findings have important implications for the practical application of copper-based water disinfection methods, in terms of their likely efficacy under environmental conditions.

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World Health Organisation


United States


Food and nutrition board


Central pollution control board of India


Environmental protection agency


Reactive oxygen species


4-(2-Hydroxyethyl)-1-piperazine ethanesulfonic acid


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The authors thank the Copper Development Association, USA and Harold Michels for providing financial support for this research.

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Correspondence to Robert H. Reed.

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Sharan, R., Chhibber, S., Attri, S. et al. Inactivation and injury of Escherichia coli in a copper water storage vessel: effects of temperature and pH. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek 97, 91–97 (2010).

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  • Copper
  • Water storage
  • Disinfection
  • Reactive oxygen species (ROS)
  • Sub-lethal stress