Brochothrix belongs to the Gram-positive bacteria (Firmicutes), closely related to Listeria, Staphylococcus, Clostridium, and Bacillus. Brochothrix oragnisms have unbranched regular rods occurring singly, in short chains or long filamentous chains folded into "knotted" masses.

There are two species in the genus. Brochothrix thermosphacta (formerly Microbacterium thermosphacta) is an economically important meat-spoilage organism, but there is no evidence that this organism is pathogenic. B. campestris is found in water and soil.5 B. campestris produces bacteriocin, brochocin-C, a protein that inhibits grows or kills other bacteria. Brochocin-C is active on a wide range of Gram-positive bacteria, including strains of Listeria.5

Brochothrix thermosphacta is a Gram-positive, rod-shaped, nonmotile, non-spore-forming, facultative anaerobic, and psychrotrophic organism able to grow at temperatures as low as 1°C. It is not heat tolerant and will not survive even mild pasteurization treatments. Its sources are not well understood, but it probably comes from soil and animal feces. It is frequently involved in the spoilage of prepacked and vacuum-packaged meat or meat products and frequently constitutes the dominant portion of the spoilage microflora of aerobically and anaerobically stored meats. Vaccum-packed meat products such as sliced cooked ham, cured meats, corned beef, and a variety of European sliced cured meats have yielded the organism as a significant part of the microbial flora.7

The conditions found in these foods selectively favor development of the organism due to its ability to grow at 1°C under oxygen depletion and in the presence of elevated carbon dioxide concentrations.1 Meat spoilage is usually apparent as "off-odor," sometimes described as malty, dairy, or cheesy smell. It results from the formation of metabolic by-products, including acetoin, diacetyl, isobutyric, isovaleric, and acetic acids, and ethanol. Smaller quantities of propanoic, butanoic, 2-methylpropanoic, and 3-methylbutanoic acids are also produced under normal pH beef. The organism may grow on fat surfaces, especially in pork and lamb, and in finished sausages.3 Brochothrix thermosphacta has also been associated with the spoilage of chicken meat.

Brochothrix bacteria are responsible for spoilage in cooked and peeled MAP shrimp
Brochothrix is responsible for spoilage in cooked and peeled MAP shrimp

Brochothrix thermosphacta, along with Shewanella putrefaciens, Photobacterium phosphoreum, and lactic acid bacteria, are also frequently isolated from MAP (modified-atmosphere packaging, also called controlled atmosphere packaging) fish contaminated with fish fecal material.2 Colonies of this microorganism may also develop at the end of chilled storage in vaccum-packed cold-smoked salmon. With Carnobacterium maltaromaticum, it is responsible for spoilage in cooked and peeled MAP shrimps.

The extract of Malpighia punicifolia (Barbados Cherry), among other natural compounds, shows promising results against several meat spoilage microorganisms including Pseudomonas and B. thermosphacta. Its phenolic acids are able not only to inhibit, but also to inactivate the bacteria and the red color of the meat is preserved.


  1. Brochothrix thermosphacta Bacteriophages Feature Heterogeneous and Highly Mosaic Genomes and Utilize Unique Prophage Insertion Sites. Samuel Kilcher, Martin J. Loessner, and Jochen Klumpp
  2. Explorative Multivariate Analyses of 16S rRNA Gene Data from Microbial Communities in Modifie8d-Atmosphere-Packed Salmon and Coalfish. Knut Rudi, Tove Maugesten, Sigrun E. Hannevik, and Hilde Nissen
  3. Laurie Curtis, Richard Lawley. Micro-facts
  4. Hartmut Rehbein, Jorg Oehlenschlager (editors). Fishery Products: Quality, Safety and Authenticity
  5. Paul Vos, George Garrity, Dorothy Jones, Noel R. Krieg, Wolfgang Ludwig, Fred A. Rainey, Karl-Heinz Schleifer, William B. Whitman (ditors). Bergey's Manual of Systematic Bacteriology: Volume 3: The Firmicutes
  6. Brian Baigrie. Taints and Off-Flavours in Food
  7. Allen A. Kraf. Psychotropic Bacteria in FoodsDisease and Spoilage
  8. Antimicrobial Effect of Malpighia Punicifolia and Extension of Water Buffalo Steak Shelf‐Life Patrizio Tremonte, 1 Elena Sorrentino, 1 Mariantonietta Succi,corresponding author 1 Luca Tipaldi, 1 Gianfranco Pannella, 1 Eléna Ibañez, 2 Jose Antonio Mendiola, 2 Tiziana Di Renzo, 3 Anna Reale, 3 and Raffaele Coppola 1 J Food Sci. 2016 Jan; 81(1): M97–M105.



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