Interactions of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli with leafy green vegetables

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Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) are important foodborne pathogens responsible for a wide spectrum of diseases including diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). A considerable number of outbreaks and sporadic cases of HUS have been associated with ingestion of fresh ready-to-eat products. Maintenance and persistence of STEC in the environment and foods can be related to its ability to form biofilm. A non-O157 STEC strain isolated from bovine feces was distinguished by its great ability to form biofilm in abiotic surfaces. In the present study, we aimed to investigate the ability of this strain to adhere to rocket leaves (Eruca sativa). Adherence assays were carried out for 3 h at 28 °C and analyzed by scanning electron microscopy. The non-O157 STEC strain adhered to leaf surface and inside the stomata forming several bacterial aggregates. The number of adherent bacteria per square millimeter of leaf was eightfold higher compared with an O157 STEC strain. Deletion of the STEC autotransporter protein contributing to biofilm (Sab) reduced the adherence ability of the non-O157 strain in almost 50%, and deletion of antigen 43 (Ag43) almost abolished this interaction. Very few bacteria were seen on the leaf surface, and these differences were statistically significant, suggesting the role of both proteins and especially Ag43 in the interaction of the non-O157 STEC strain with leaves. The risk posed by non-O157 STEC adherence to leaves on fresh produce contamination should not be neglected, and measures that effectively control adherence should be included in strategies to control non-O157 STEC.
Abe CM, Matheus-Guimarães C, Garcia BG., Guth BE.C. Interactions of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli with leafy green vegetables. Braz. J. Microbiol.. 2020 Mar;51: 797-803. doi:10.1007/s42770-020-00251-y.
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