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Sequence of Colonization Determines the Composition of Mixed biofilms by Escherichia coli O157:H7 and O111:H8 strains

Wang, Rong, Kalchayanand, Norasak, Bono, James L.
Journal of food protection 2015 v.78 no.8 pp. 1554-1559
Escherichia coli O157, bacterial colonization, bacterial contamination, biofilm, cross contamination, disinfection, food contamination, food pathogens, food processing, meat, microbial growth, risk, serotypes
Bacterial biofilms are one of the potential sources of cross-contamination in food processing environments. Shiga toxin– producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157:H7 and O111:H8 are important foodborne pathogens capable of forming biofilms, and the coexistence of these two STEC serotypes has been detected in various food samples and in multiple commercial meat plants throughout the United States. Here, we investigated how the coexistence of these two STEC serotypes and their sequence of colonization could affect bacterial growth competition and mixed biofilm development. Our data showed that E. coli O157:H7 strains were able to maintain a higher cell percentage in mixed biofilms with the co-inoculated O111:H8 companion strains, even though the results of planktonic growth competition were strain dependent. On solid surfaces with preexisting biofilms, the sequence of colonization played a critical role in determining the composition of the mixed biofilms because early stage precolonization significantly affected the competition results between the E. coli O157:H7 and O111:H8 strains. The precolonizer of either serotype was able to outgrow the other serotype in both planktonic and biofilm phases. The competitive interactions among the various STEC serotypes would determine the composition and structure of the mixed biofilms as well as their potential risks to food safety and public health, which is largely influenced by the dominant strains in the mixtures. Thus, the analysis of mixed biofilms under various conditions would be of importance to determine the nature of mixed biofilms composed of multiple microorganisms and to help implement the most effective disinfection operations accordingly.