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Chapter 2. Literature Review and Background

2.2 Overview of Current Odor Assessment Methods

2.2.1 Microbial Testing

Microbial assessment of a given sample can show the presence of specific microflora which may or may not play a key role in foot odor production. Having an idea of the amount of bacteria present in a sample could give evidence supporting the efficacy of an antimicrobial treatment. For example, it is known that Staphylococcus epidermis is responsible for the production of isovaleric acid, the major odor contributor on feet [3] [9] [63]. Low quantities of

Staphylococcus epidermis in microbial test could prove an antimicrobial treatment to be efficient. The overall idea behind the use of antimicrobials is that a lack of specific bacteria may be correlated to the lack of a specific odor. In the case of the aforementioned example, less Staphylococcus epidermis in a shoe sample would ideally correlate to less production of isovaleric acid.

Microbial testing of odor compounds is considered an objective assessment because it involves solely factual, quantifiable data. Either there is or is not a certain amount of bacteria present. There is no external input from emotion or memory from one’s psyche as seen in some odor panel assessment methods. Data involving the quantities of bacteria present in a given sample could potentially be correlated to analytical data regarding the quantities of odor compounds in the same sample. Thus, there is the possibility for the development of a study in which types and quantities of bacteria found in a sample are associated to some degree with a known concentration of volatile organic compounds. Process

When ideal growth situations (e.g. moderate climates containing warm, wet conditions) are provided, microbes multiply at extreme rates which can lead to increased odor generation, loss of textile performance, and overall discomfort. Because of these issues, there is currently interest in creating odor-combatant technologies for textiles. As previously mentioned, fabrics can possess induced antimicrobial properties which offer more cleanliness and odor protection. With recent strides in hygienic textile capabilities, antimicrobial fabrics are being used in clothing, domestic textiles, medical textiles, and footwear. As antimicrobial use in textiles and

the diversity of technologies increases, advances in methods for testing antimicrobial efficacy will be needed.

Microbial testing can assess both antimicrobial and biocidal textile finishes. Antimicrobials require only the inhibition of further bacteria growth while biocides require a decrease in bacteria populations [64]. The data from microbial testing, though frequently quantitative, can be considered qualitative as well. Quantitative results are based on determining the actual number of bacteria still alive after an allotted contact time with a treated fabric [64]. Qualitative results are the product of observed differences in the effects of a treated fabric versus an untreated control [64] [65].

In general, microbial testing involves the inoculation of bacteria strains on the surface of an agar culture medium [64] [66] [63]. The medium contains a food source for a certain bacteria to grow and eventually colonize the plate [64]. For example, knowing Staphylococcus epidermis feeds on L-leucine, thus producing isovaleric acid as a byproduct, one may consider using L-leucine based agar in the inoculation process.

Multiple variations of testing can be done after inoculation. One of which is the assessment of diffusible antibacterial activity. To test the leaching action of diffusible antimicrobials, a piece of treated fabric is put in contact with the agar inoculated with test bacteria (see Figure 7) [64] [67]. Should the treatment work, it may be possible to see a clear zone around the treated sample compared to the bacterial growth zone around an untreated control sample after the same amount of contact time (AATCC 147, ISO 20645 [68]). This particular method is limited in that it cannot assess non diffusible or fixed antimicrobial treatments [64].

Figure 7. Antimicrobial Testing of Nanosilver Coated Cotton vs Controls [69]

Alternatively, the Parallel Streak Method (AATCC 147-2004 [65]) was developed as a relatively quick and easy qualitative assessment of both diffusible and non-diffusible antimicrobial agents on treated fabrics. The classical Parallel Streak Method, used for diffusible agents, calls for the inoculation of the agar surface so that one may distinguish between test microorganisms and contaminant organisms [65] [64]. The Parallel Streak Method is proven effective in testing the efficacy if antimicrobial agents used against Gram negative and Gram positive microbes [65]. A modified version of the Parallel Streak Method is capable of evaluating non-diffusible antimicrobials. This particular modification involves the pressing of a textile onto an agar plate and inoculating test bacteria over the textile specimen with four parallel streaks [65].

Other tests exist as well, including [64]:

 AATCC 100 - Determines antimicrobial efficacy of antibacterial finishes or coatings on textile materials [70]

 AATCC 30 - Determines antimicrobial efficacy against molds and fungi [71]

 AATCC 174 - Determines antimicrobial activity within carpeting [72] Pros & Cons of Microbial Testing

Assessment of microbial testing has its advantages and disadvantages when comparing the limits of its capabilities versus the needs of today’s industry. Some of these advantages and disadvantages of microbial assessment of antimicrobial and anti-odor finishes are considered below in Table 3.

Table 3. Pros and Cons of Microbial Assessments

Pros Cons

Assess antimicrobial finish efficacy Costs time and money Can provide a quantitative and

qualitative result

Does not assess efficacy of anti-odor finishes

Does not quantify odor itself

Microbial assessments good for determining the presence of bacteria in tested samples. By knowing the quantities and types of bacteria present in samples, one could test the efficacy of an antimicrobial finish. The idea being that the lack of bacteria responsible for creating foot

odor could correlate to the lack of foot odor present in sensory tests. This idea does fit into findings by Marshall et al. [3] that foot odor is based on two things, one of them being the presence of bacteria with enzymes capable of creating key free fatty acid chains. But what about testing anti-odor finishes? The anti-odor approach does not direct its efforts toward the bacteria responsible, but rather towards the odor-causing compounds responsible. Something like a cyclodextrin or zeolite technology cannot be properly assessed by microbial assessments because microflora may still be present in a sample while odiferous compounds are not. Alternatively, odors may still be present in samples in the absence of bacteria. Key odorants like isovaleric and propionic acids tend to linger. For example, someone with intense foot odor may generate responsible odorants prior to a peak effect of an antimicrobial finish in the footwear. The bacteria which produced the compounds may die off, but the isovaleric acid left behind could potentially linger in the shoe between microbial assessment and sensory tests performed by an odor panel. There is potential for microbial data to not correlate with perceived odors from such samples. In the same mindset, microbial assessments are not capable of quantifying odor itself. They can indeed identify and quantify the bacteria responsible, but knowing the quantities of odors created by each bacterium is far from likely at this time. Therefore, a quantified dataset regarding the odor compounds perceived by an odor panel cannot come from microbial testing. Yet, such a dataset could prove quite useful to predict odor presence and intensity in footwear. Without the ability to quantify odor itself, one could not measure the change in perceived odor (whether reduced or increased) in order to fully assess the efficacy of both antimicrobial and anti-odor finishes.