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Comparative assessment of qPCR enumeration methods that discriminate between live and dead Escherichia coli O157:H7 on beef

Laidlaw, Anna M., Gänzle, Michael G., Yang, Xianqin
Food microbiology 2019 v.79 pp. 41-47
DNA, Escherichia coli O157, beef, deoxycholic acid, genes, human diseases, lactic acid, peracetic acid, propidium, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, ribosomal RNA, steaks
Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR) is a molecular method commonly used to detect and quantify bacterial DNA on food but is limited by its inability to distinguish between live and dead cell DNA. To overcome this obstacle, propidium monoazide (PMA) alone or with deoxycholate (DC) was used to prevent dead cell detection in qPCR. qPCR methods were used to detect strains of Escherichia coli O157, which can cause infection in humans with an infectious dose of less than 10 cells. A 5 strain E. coli O157:H7 cocktail was inoculated onto beef steaks and treated with interventions used in meat facilities (lactic acid (5%), peroxyacetic acid (200 ppm) or hot water (80 °C for 10 s)). Treatment of PMA or PMA + DC was applied to samples followed by DNA extraction and quantification in qPCR. RNA was also quantified in addition to conventional plating. For lactic acid intervention, qPCR DNA quantification of E. coli O157:H7 yielded 6.59 ± 0.21 and 6.30 ± 0.11 log gene copy #/cm2 for control and lactic acid samples, respectively and after treatment with PMA or PMA + DC this was further reduced to 6.31 ± 0.21 and 5.58 ± 0.38, respectively. This trend was also observed for peroxyacetic acid and hot water interventions. In comparison, RNA quantification yielded 7.65 ± 0.13 and 7.02 ± 0.38 log reverse transcript/cm2 for rRNA control and lactic acid samples, respectively, and for plating (LB), 7.51 ± 0.06 and 6.86 ± 0.32 log CFU/cm2, respectively. Our research determined that treatment of PMA + DC in conjunction with qPCR prevented dead cell DNA detection. However, it also killed cells injured from intervention that may have otherwise recovered. RNA quantification was more laborious and results had higher variability. Overall, quantification with conventional plating proved to be the most robust and reliable method for live EHEC detection on beef.