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Pre-harvest internalization and surface survival of Salmonella and Escherichia coli O157:H7 sprayed onto different lettuce cultivars under field and growth chamber conditions

Erickson, Marilyn C., Liao, Jye-Yin, Payton, Alison S., Cook, Peter W., Den Bakker, Henk C., Bautista, Jesus, Pérez, Juan Carlos Díaz
International journal of food microbiology 2019 v.291 pp. 197-204
Escherichia coli O157, Salmonella, anti-infective agents, antioxidant activity, cultivars, enrichment culture, enteropathogens, field experimentation, food pathogens, genotype, growth chambers, leaves, lettuce, risk reduction, spraying
Plant genotype has been advocated to have an important role in the fate of enteric pathogens residing in lettuce foliage. This study was therefore undertaken under the premise that different pathogen responses could occur in lettuce cultivars with cultivar selection being one of several hurdles in an overall strategy for controlling foodborne pathogens on field-grown produce. Up to eight lettuce cultivars (‘Gabriella’, ‘Green Star’, ‘Muir’, ‘New Red Fire’, ‘Coastal Star’, ‘Starfighter’, ‘Tropicana’, and ‘Two Star’) were examined in these experiments in which the plants were subjected to spray contamination of their foliage with pathogens. In an experiment that addressed internalization of Salmonella, cultivar was determined to be a significant variable (P < 0.05) with ‘Gabriella’ and ‘Muir’ being the least and most likely to exhibit internalization of this pathogen, respectively. Furthermore, antimicrobials (total phenols and antioxidant capacity chemicals) could be part of the plant's defenses to resist internalization as there was an inverse relationship between the prevalence of internalization at 1 h and the levels of these antimicrobials (r = −0.75 to −0.80, P = 0.0312 to 0.0165). Internalized cells appeared to be transient residents in that across all cultivars, plants sampled 1 h after being sprayed were 3.5 times more likely to be positive for Salmonella than plants analyzed 24 h after spraying (95% CI from 1.5 to 8.2, P = 0.0035). The fate of surface-resident Salmonella and Escherichia coli O157:H7 was addressed in subsequent growth chamber and field experiments. In the growth chamber study, no effect of cultivar was manifested on the fate of either pathogen when plants were sampled up to 12 days after spray contamination of their foliage. However, in the field study, five days after spraying the plants, Salmonella contamination was significantly affected by cultivar (P < 0.05) and the following order of prevalence of contamination was observed: ‘Muir’ < ‘Gabriella’ < ‘Green Star’ = ‘New Red Fire’ < ‘Coastal Star’. Nine days after spray contamination of plants in the field, no effect of cultivar was exhibited due primarily to the low prevalence of contamination observed for Salmonella (8 of 300 plant samples positive by enrichment culture) and E. coli O157 (4 of 300 plant samples positive by enrichment culture). Given the narrow window of time during which cultivar differences were documented, it is unlikely that cultivar selection could serve as a viable option for reducing the microbiological risk associated with lettuce.