Dr Katie Costello

CPE Admissions Tutor, Lecturer
MEng Chemical Engineering, PhD Chemical Engineering
+44 (0)1483 682130
23 BC 02
Monday to Friday, 8am - 5pm

Academic and research departments

Department of Chemical and Process Engineering.

Research projects

My teaching

Courses I teach on


My publications


Katherine M. Costello, Jorge Gutierrez-Merino, Madeleine Bussemaker, Cindy Smet, Jan F. Van Impe, Eirini G. Velliou (2020)A multi-scale analysis of the effect of complex viscoelastic models on Listeria dynamics and adaptation in co-culture systems, In: AIChE Journal66(1)e16761 Wiley

Natural antimicrobials are of interest to replace traditional food decontamination methods: they are milder and maintain desirable sensory characteristics. However, efficacy can be affected by food structure/composition, thus structural effects in a co-culture pathogen/microflora system are investigated. Listeria was grown planktonically (liquid broth) or on a biphasic viscoelastic system, in monoculture with/without artificial nisin, or in co-culture with L. lactis (nisin/non-nisin producing). Microbial growth kinetics were monitored and advanced microscopy techniques were utilised to quantify cellular interactions and spatial organisation. Microstructural effects are observed on the kinetics, with differences in monoculture/co- culture. Significant microscopic differences are observed in spatial organisation and colony size. We are the first to observe changing growth location for all species in monoculture/co- culture, with differences in colony size/organisation through stationary phase. This study provides insight into the environmental stress response/adaptation of Listeria grown on structured systems in response to L. lactis and natural antimicrobials.

Hani El Kadri, Katherine M Costello, Phillip Thomas, Thomas Wantock, Gavin Sandison, Thomas Harle, Andrea Lucca Fabris, Jorge Gutierrez-Merino, Eirini G Velliou (2021)The antimicrobial efficacy of remote cold atmospheric plasma effluent against single and mixed bacterial biofilms of varying age, In: Food Research International141 Elsevier Ltd

Cold atmospheric plasma (CAP) is a minimal food processing technology of increasing interest in the food industry, as it is mild in nature compared to traditional methods (e.g. pasteurisation) and thus can maintain the food’s desirable qualities. However, due to this mild nature, the potential exists for post-treatment microbial survival and/or stress adaptation. Furthermore, biofilm inactivation by CAP is underexplored and mostly studied on specific foods or on plastic/polymer surfaces. Co-culture effects, biofilm age, and innate biofilm-associated resistance could all impact CAP efficacy, while studies on real foods are limited to the food product investigated without accounting for structural complexity. The effect of a Remote and Enclosed CAP device (Fourth State Medicine Ltd) was investigated on Escherichia coli and Listeria innocua grown as planktonic cells and as single or mixed bacterial biofilms of variable age, on a biphasic viscoelastic food model of controlled rheological and structural complexity. Post-CAP viability was assessed by plate counts, cell sublethal injury was quantified using flow cytometry, and biofilms were characterised and assessed using total protein content and microscopy techniques. A greater impact of CAP on planktonic cells was observed at higher air flow rates, where the ReCAP device operates in a mode more favourable to reactive oxygen species than reactive nitrogen species. Although planktonic E. coli was more susceptible to CAP than planktonic L. innocua, the opposite was observed in biofilm form. The efficacy of CAP was reduced with increasing biofilm age. Furthermore, E. coli produced much higher protein content in both single and mixed biofilms than L. innocua. Consequently, greater survival of L. innocua in mixed biofilms was attributed to a protective effect from E. coli. These results show that biofilm susceptibility to CAP is age and bacteria dependent, and that in mixed biofilms bacteria may become less susceptible to CAP. These findings are of significance to the food industry for the development of effective food decontamination methods using CAP.

Katie Costello, Jorge Gutierrez-Merino, Madeleine Bussemaker, M Ramaiolia, M Baka, J Van Impe, Eirini Velliou (2018)Modelling the microbial dynamics and antimicrobial resistance development of Listeria in viscoelastic food model systems of various structural complexities, In: International Journal of Food Microbiology286pp. 15-30 Elsevier

Minimal processing for microbial decontamination, such as the use of natural antimicrobials, is gaining interest in the food industry as these methods are generally milder than conventional processing, therefore better maintaining the nutritional content and sensory characteristics of food products. The aim of this study was to quantify the impact of (i) structural composition and complexity, (ii) growth location and morphology, and (iii) the natural antimicrobial nisin, on the microbial dynamics of Listeria innocua. More specifically, viscoelastic food model systems of various compositions and internal structure were developed and characterised, i.e. monophasic Xanthan gum-based and biphasic Xanthan gum/Whey protein-based viscoelastic systems. The microbial dynamics of L. innocua at 10oC, 30oC and 37oC were monitored and compared for planktonic growth in liquid, or in/on (immersed or surface colony growth) the developed viscoelastic systems, with or without a sublethal concentration of nisin. Microscopy imaging was used to determine the bacterial colony size and spatial organisation in/on the viscoelastic systems. Selective growth of L. innocua on the protein phase of the developed biphasic system was observed for the first time. Additionally, significant differences were observed in the colony size and distribution in the monophasic Xanthan gum-based systems depending on (i) the type of growth (surface/immersed) and (ii) the Xanthan gum concentration. Furthermore, the system viscosity in monophasic Xanthan gum-based systems had a protective role against the effects of nisin for immersed growth, and a further inhibitory effect for surface growth at a suboptimal temperature (10oC). These findings give a systematic quantitative insight on the impact of nisin as an environmental challenge on the growth and spatial organisation of L. innocua, in viscoelastic food model systems of various structural compositions/complexities. This study highlights the importance of accounting for system structural composition/complexity when designing minimal food processing methods with natural antimicrobials.