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Acid adaptation and survival of Listeria monocytogenes in Italian-style soft cheeses

Cataldo, G., Conte, M.P., Chiarini, F., Seganti, L., Ammendolia, M.G., Superti, F., Longhi, C.
Journal of applied microbiology 2007 v.103 no.1 pp. 185-193
Listeria monocytogenes, acid tolerance, bacteria, biofilm, cold storage, listeriosis, milk, milk consumption, pH, pathogens, salt stress, sodium chloride, soft cheeses
The ability of Listeria monocytogenes to survive and grow at high salt concentrations and low pH makes it a potential hazard after the consumption of milk and dairy products, often implicated in severe outbreaks of listeriosis. This study was designed to evaluate the behaviour of L. monocytogenes in traditional acid and salted Italian-style soft cheeses and to investigate whether Listeria occurrence and growth in these environments may represent a potential increase of hazard. A first approach was addressed to in vitro evaluate survival, acid tolerance response, ability to produce biofilm, and capability to invade intestinal-like cells of a L. monocytogenes strain grown under experimental conditions mimicking environmental features that this pathogen encounters in soft cheeses (such as acid pH and high NaCl content). A second set of experiments was performed to monitor, during the storage at 4°C, the survival of acid-adapted and nonadapted Listeriae in artificially contamined soft cheeses. Both acid tolerance response and invasion efficiency of acid-adapted bacteria resulted in an increase, even when bacteria were simultaneously pre-exposed to increasing salt stress. The contamination of cheeses with acid-adapted and nonadapted bacteria evidenced in all products a good survival. A significant increased survival, the recovery of bacterial cells highly resistant to lethal pH exposure, and the prevalence of filamentous structures were observed in crescenza cheese during the storage. The Listeria survival and acid pH tolerance observed during refrigerated storage are probably related to the intrinsic acid and saline features of soft cheeses analysed. Italian soft cheeses tested may represent a potential hazard for the recovery of acid-adapted L. monocytogenes cells with enhanced ability to adhere to inert surfaces and/or to penetrate host cells.