Bacteria, either indigenous or added, are immobilized in solid foods where they grow as colonies. Since the 80's, relatively few research groups have explored the implications of bacteria growing as colonies and mostly focused on pathogens in large colonies on agar/gelatine media. It is only recently that high resolution imaging techniques and biophysical characterization techniques increased the understanding of the growth of bacterial colonies, for different sizes of colonies, at the microscopic level and even down to the molecular level. This review covers the studies on bacterial colony growth in agar or gelatine media mimicking the food environment and in model cheese. The following conclusions have been brought to light. Firstly, under unfavorable conditions, mimicking food conditions, the immobilization of bacteria always constrains their growth in comparison with planktonic growth and increases the sensibility of bacteria to environmental stresses. Secondly, the spatial distribution describes both the distance between colonies and the size of the colonies as a function of the initial level of population. By studying the literature, we concluded that there systematically exists a threshold that distinguishes micro-colonies (radius < 100-200 μm) from macro-colonies (radius >200 μm). Micro-colonies growth resembles planktonic growth and no pH microgradients could be observed. Macro-colonies growth is slower than planktonic growth and pH microgradients could be observed in and around them due to diffusion limitations which occur around, but also inside the macro-colonies. Diffusion limitations of milk proteins have been demonstrated in a model cheese around and in the bacterial colonies. In conclusion, the impact of immobilization is predominant for macro-colonies in comparison with micro-colonies. However, the interaction between the colonies and the food matrix itself remains to be further investigated at the microscopic scale.
Jeanson, S., Floury, J., Gagnaire, V., Lortal, S., & Thierry, A. (2015). Bacterial Colonies in Solid Media and Foods: A Review on Their Growth and Interactions with the Micro-Environment. Frontiers in Microbiology, 6. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2015.01284