Effects of Acid Stress on Vibrio parahaemolyticus Survival and Cytotoxicity

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For several foodborne bacterial pathogens, an acid tolerance response appears to be an important strategy for counteracting acid stress imposed either during food processing or by the human host. The acid tolerance response enhances bacterial survival of lethal acid challenge following prior exposure to sublethal acidic conditions. Previous studies have revealed relationships between a foodborne pathogen's ability to survive acid challenge and its infectious dose. Vibrio parahaemolyticus is capable of causing gastroenteritis when sufficient cells of pathogenic strains are consumed. This study was designed to characterize acid sensitivities and to compare the effects of sublethal acid exposure (adaptation) on survival capabilities and cytotoxicities of different V. parahaemolyticus strains. Survival of acid challenge by stationary-phase cells differed by up to 3 log CFU/ml among the 25 isolates tested. No differences in acid resistance were found between strains when they were grouped by source (clinical isolates versus those obtained from food). Survival at pH 3.6 for log-phase cells that had been previously exposed to sublethal acidic conditions (pH 5.5) was enhanced compared with that for cells not previously exposed to pH 5.5. However, for stationary-phase cells, exposure to pH 5.5 impaired both subsequent survival at pH 3.6 and cytotoxicity to human epithelial cells. Relative cytotoxicities of nonadapted stationary-phase cells were 1.2- to 4.8-fold higher than those of adapted cells. Sublethal acid exposure appears to impose measurable growth phase–dependent effects on subsequent lethal acid challenge survival and cytotoxicity of V. parahaemolyticus.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Food Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA

Publication date: July 1, 2004

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