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Presence and Persistence of Salmonella enterica Serotype Typhimurium in the Phyllosphere and Rhizosphere of Spray-Irrigated Parsley

Kisluk, Guy, Yaron, Sima
Applied and environmental microbiology 2012 v.78 no.11 pp. 4030-4036
Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica serovar Typhimurium, food pathogens, irrigation scheduling, irrigation water, parsley, phyllosphere, plate count, polymerase chain reaction, population dynamics, ready-to-eat foods, rhizosphere, rhizosphere bacteria, sprinkler irrigation, water pollution, winter
Salmonella enterica is one of the major food-borne pathogens associated with ready-to-eat fresh foods. Although polluted water might be a significant source of contamination in the field, factors that influence the transfer of Salmonella from water to the crops are not well understood, especially under conditions of low pathogen levels in water. The aim of this study was to investigate the short- and long-term (1 h to 28 days) persistence of Salmonella enterica serotype Typhimurium in the phyllosphere and the rhizosphere of parsley following spray irrigation with contaminated water. Plate counting and quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR)-based methods were implemented for the quantification. By applying qRT-PCR with enrichment, we were able to show that even irrigation with water containing as little as ∼300 CFU/ml resulted in the persistence of S. Typhimurium on the plants for 48 h. Irrigation with water containing 8.5 log CFU/ml resulted in persistence of the bacteria in the phyllosphere and the rhizosphere for at least 4 weeks, but the population steadily declined with a major reduction in bacterial counts, of ∼2 log CFU/g, during the first 2 days. Higher levels of Salmonella were detected in the phyllosphere when plants were irrigated during the night compared to irrigation during the morning and during winter compared to the other seasons. Further elucidation of the mechanisms underlying the transfer of Salmonella from contaminated water to crops, as well as its persistence over time, will enable the implementation of effective irrigation and control strategies.