The mechanisms and factors that affect microbial resistance to chlorine disinfection have not been fully elucidated. In this study, we investigated the impact of the cell growth stage on chlorine disinfection efficiency. Specifically, we evaluated the impact of the growth stage on chlorination resistance by comparing the inactivation efficiencies of two indicator bacterial strains (Escherichia coli K12 and Escherichia coli 0157:H7) obtained from various growth phases, using Chick-Watson kinetic parameters. For both E. coli strains (K12 and 0157:H7), the inactivation rate constants are the lowest at stationary phase (0.19 and 0.32) compared to those at initial lag (0.54 and 0.76) and exponential growth phase (0.63 and 0.69), respectively. These results suggested that the abundance of resistant subpopulations increases at stressed stationary conditions and E. coli cells obtained from the stationary growth phase exhibited more resistance and lower inactivation efficiency compared to those from the lag and exponential phases. This implies that microbes in wastewater treatment process with varying solids retention times (SRTs, which indicate growth rates) may show different extents of chlorine resistance. Comparison of the coefficient of dilution (n) values in both E. coli strains for the various growth phases suggest that cells seem to be more sensitive to disinfectant concentration at the stationary-lag phase than that at the exponential stage. Comparing the two E. coli strains, higher inactivation rates were observed for the pathogenic O157:H7 than for K12 at different stages of growth. The strain-to-strain variability in survivability to chlorine exposure has to be considered when selecting indicator microorganisms for water quality monitoring.
Keywords: chlorine disinfection, E. coli, growth stage, inactivation model, indicator organism, resistance