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Characterization of Listeria monocytogenes Isolates from 50 Small-Scale Austrian Cheese Factories

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One hundred eighty-one small-scale cheese factories (annual production < 100,000 kg) were tested for the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in cheese and smear samples from 1997 to 2000. In total, 2615 samples were drawn. Fifty (27.6%) of 181 enterprises yielded L. monocytogenes. From 14 of the cheese-making facilities, we obtained more than four L. monocytogenes isolates. A total of 182 mostly cheese- and smear-borne L. monocytogenes strains were characterized by serotyping and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. In 12 of 14 cheese factories, over half of the L. monocytogenes isolates were genetically indistinguishable by pulsetype. On average, genetically indistinguishable isolates were recovered for 11.9 months. Regarding serotypes, 27.3% of the isolates were of serovar 4b. Inadequate personal hygiene could explain the high prevalence of serovar 4b isolates in small-scale cheesemaking facilities. Forty-two percent of the serovar 4b isolates recovered from epidemiologically unlinked facilities (in comparison to 40 and 29% of the 1/2a and 1/2b isolates, respectively) were genetically indistinguishable from at least one other isolate. Indistinguishable serovar 1/2a and 1/2b isolates belonged to five and six different pulsetypes, respectively, whereas serovar 4b isolates belonged to only two pulsetypes. This finding suggested a wide distribution of genetically homologous serovar 4b isolates among the facilities tested in our study.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department for Veterinary Public Health and Food Science, University of Veterinary Medicine, Veterinärplatz 1, 1210 Vienna, Austria 2: Federal Institute for Alpine Dairying, Rotholz 50a, 6200 Rotholz, Austria 3: Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety, Spargelfeldstrasse 172, 1220 Vienna, Austria

Publication date: 2006-06-01

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