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Enterococcus Populations in Pecorino Abruzzese Cheese: Biodiversity and Safety Aspects

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The presence of enterococci in Pecorino Abruzzese cheese during ripening was evaluated. Counts were high, especially in fully ripened summer batches. Seventy strains were isolated and identified based on phenotypical and genotypical features as Enterococcus faecium (48.5%), Enterococcus faecalis (40%), and Enterococcus durans (11.5%), with the first species predominant in spring batches and the second predominant in summer batches. High biodiversity was revealed by random amplification of polymorphic DNA and a PCR assay, suggesting the presence of autochthonous strains. E. faecium isolates were the most resistant to the tested antibiotics, especially to erythromycin, chloramphenicol, and penicillin, but all strains were susceptible to vancomycin, as confirmed by the absence of vanA and vanB genes. The presence of some virulence determinants was investigated, revealing the diffusion of aggregation substance (asa1) and gelatinase (gelE) genes in 37.5% of E. faecalis strains. However, none of the isolates produced gelatinase in vitro, suggesting the presence of silent genes. The virulence genes were absent in E. durans. Among E. faecium strains, only Lab 41/1 possessed gelE and asa1, whose presence previously has been reported only in E. faecalis. Decarboxylating activity was revealed for phenylalanine (27% of the strains) and tyrosine (96%) but not histidine. The presence of a tyrosine decarboxylase–encoding gene was observed for all strains. A comparison of these results with those of previous studies of clinical and food isolates indicates that enterococci from Pecorino Abruzzese cheese have low pathogenic potential.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dipartimento di Scienze degli Alimenti, Università degli Studi di Teramo, Via C.R. Lerici, 1, 64023 Mosciano Stazione TE, Italy

Publication date: July 1, 2007

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