Throughout history, we have made many discoveries and breakthroughs related to living systems, microorganisms and the human body which have helped contribute to the development of medicine and civilizations around the world. This has benefited humans through the successful treatment of diseases and illness and led to numerous advancements especially in the food and agriculture industries.

Let’s take a look at how the bacteria and microorganisms co-existing with us in various biological systems may in some cases cause illness yet in others make great contributions to the advancement of human life.

Total Aerobic Plate Count

Total Aerobic Plate CountView more
Total Aerobic Plate Count

Total Aerobic Plate Count

The aerobic colony count, or aerobic plate count (APC) reflects the level of microorganisms in a product. The APC can show quality, shelf life and post heat-processing contamination for fresh fish or fish products1. Usually products have an APC of 104 -105 /g, while other types of seafood have APC of 106 -108 /g, which are safe levels. For a list of some food product guidelines click here.

Other examples of guideline values for TPC (Total Plate Count):
- Swimming pool water – must not exceed 200 cfu/mL (Hong Kong)
- Drinking water – must not exceed 100 cfu/mL (China)
- Cooling water – must not exceed 105 cfu/mL (Hong Kong)

APC is also used for assessing sanitary quality, organoleptic properties, acceptability of and conformity to good manufacturing practices, and to a lesser extent as an indication of safety. 2

The Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC) and the American Public Health Association (APHA) have developed a detailed procedural process, which uses 2 methods to determine aerobic plate count: 3
- Conventional Plate Count Method
- Spiral Place Method

1 Chapter 9: Aerobic Plate Count. Available from: [18 January 2016].

2 Florin Switzerland, Total Plate Count. Available from: [18 January 2016].

3 Murray-Brown Laboratories, Aerobic Plate Count. Available from: [18 January 2016].

Total Coliform Count

Total Coliform Count View more
Total Coliform Count

Total Coliform Count Enterobacteriaceae in the bloodstream

Coliform is used to describe rod-shaped bacteria isolated from human feces. 4 The coliform group of bacteria belongs to a single taxonomic family (Enterobacteriaceae). Other genera in the Enterobacteriaceae family – Salmonella and Shigella – are not considered as coliform.

Coliform Bacteria

This is used as an indicator of microbial water quality and expresses the sanitary condition of a water supply. It indicates the number of coliform bacteria per 100 ml water, and records the extent of fecal matter in the sample. The results will represent the CDM, or Coliform Microbial Density. Coliforms are found in plants, soil and the digestive tracts of humans and animals. 5 Their existence often indicates contamination by more harmful bacteria as well as viruses and parasites.

Water Quality Tests

Total Coliforms include bacteria that are found in the soil, in water that has been influenced by surface water and in human or animal waste.

Fecal Coliforms are total coliforms that are present specifically in the gut and feces of warm-blooded animals.

Escherichia Coli (E. coli)is the best indicator of fecal pollution and the possible presence of pathogens.

The Total Coliform count test is now a co-indicator or in some cases has been completely replaced by the Total E. coli count as the primary bacterial indicator of fecal pollution.

4 Larry Maturin, BAM: Aerobic Plate Count, Bacteriological Analytical Manual Chapter 3 Aerobic Plate Count, January 2001. Available from: [18 January 2016].

5 Australian Government, National Health and Medical Research Council, Review of Coliforms, As Microbial Indicators of Drinking Water Quality. Available from: [18 January 2016]

Total Escherichia Coli Count

Total Escherichia Coli CountView more
Total Escherichia Coli Count

Total Escherichia Coli Count

A German–Austrian pediatrician Theodor Escherich discovered Bacterium coli commune (Escherichia Coli) in 1885. 6 He gave it this name as it is found in the colon.

Total coliforms and Escherichia coli (E. Coli) are indicators that measure the degree of pollution and sanitary quality of water. 7 Recent contamination from human or animal waste causes the occurrence of pathogens in drinking water. Contamination may be due to:
- Improperly treated septic and sewage discharge
- Leaching of animal manure
- Storm water runoff
- Domestic animals or wildlife

Health Risks

A water source contaminated with fecal material as indicated by E. Coli testing, may contain bacteria, viruses and parasites. The most common symptoms associated with contamination include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Usually infants, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems suffer more serious effects. In severe cases, pathogens may affect the lungs, skin, eyes, nervous system, kidneys or liver.


Treatments for microbial contamination include:
- Permanent point-of-entry disinfection units, which may use:
     Ultraviolet light (UV light)
- Distillation

Risk Factors

- Working around livestock
- Consuming unpasteurized dairy products
- Eating undercooked meat
- Drinking impure water

Prevention Methods

- Wash hands before and after cooking
- Avoid cross contamination of foods
- Keep food refrigerated or frozen
- Make sure food is kept at an appropriate temperature
- Avoid raw meat and poultry
- Do not let food defrost on the counter
- Refrigerate left overs

6 New York State Department of Health, June 2011. Available from: [18 January 2016]

7Escherichia Coli. Available from:

8New Nouveau Brunswick, Facts On Drinking Water, Coliform Bacteria – Total Coliforms & E.Coli, Available from:[18 January 2016]

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