jueves, 28 de agosto de 2008

Plant Lesions Promote the Rapid Multiplication of Escherichia coli O157:H7 on Postharvest Lettuce

Tissue damage in minimally processed leafy vegetables increases 27 times growth of pathogenic E. coli.
Several outbreaks of Escherichia coli O157:H7 infections have been associated with minimally processed leafy vegetables in the United States. Harvesting and processing cause plant tissue damage.
In order to assess the role of plant tissue damage in the contamination of leafy greens with E. coli O157:H7, the effect of mechanical, physiological, and plant disease-induced lesions on the growth of this pathogen on postharvest romaine lettuce was investigated.

Within only 4 h after inoculation, the population sizes of E. coli O157:H7 increased 4.0-, 4.5-, and 11.0-fold on lettuce leaves that were mechanically bruised, cut into large pieces, and shredded into multiple pieces, respectively. During the same time, E. coli O157:H7 population sizes increased only twofold on leaves that were left intact after harvest. Also, the population size of E. coli O157:H7 was 27 times greater on young leaves affected by soft rot due to infection by Erwinia chrysanthemi than on healthy middle-aged leaves.

Confocal microscopy revealed that leaf tip burn lesions, which are caused by a common physiological disorder of lettuce, harbored dense populations of E. coli O157:H7 cells both internally and externally. Investigation of the colonization of cut lettuce stems by E. coli O157:H7 showed that the pathogen grew 11-fold over 4 h of incubation after its inoculation onto the stems, from which large amounts of latex were released.

The results of this study indicate that plant tissue damage of various types can promote significant multiplication of E. coli O157:H7 over a short time and suggest that harvesting and processing are critical control points in the prevention or reduction of E. coli O157:H7 contamination of lettuce.
Source: M. T. Brandl* Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Sept 2008, p. 5285-5289, Vol. 74, No. 17
Aporte: Guillermo Figueroa

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