Escherichia coli O157:H7 Strains Isolated from Environmental Sources Differ Significantly in Acetic Acid Resistance Compared with Human Outbreak Strains

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A number of studies on the influence of acid on Escherichia coli O157:H7 have shown considerable strain differences, but limited information has been reported to compare the acid resistance based on the different sources of E. coli O157:H7 isolates. The purpose of this study was to determine the survival of E. coli O157:H7 strains isolated from five sources (foods, bovine carcasses, bovine feces, water, and human) in 400 mM acetic acid solutions under conditions that are typical of acidified foods. The isolates from bovine carcasses, feces, and water survived acetic acid treatment at pH 3.3 and 30°C significantly (P ≤ 0.05) better than did any food or human isolates. However, resistance to acetic acid significantly increased as temperature decreased to 15°C for a given pH, with little (P ≥ 0.05) difference among the different isolation sources. All groups of E. coli O157:H7 strains showed more than 1.8- to 4.5-log reduction at pH 3.3 and 30°C after 25 min. Significantly reduced (less than 1-log reduction) lethality for all E. coli O157:H7 strain mixtures was observed when pH increased to 3.7 or 4.3, with little difference in acetic acid resistance among the groups. The addition of glutamate to the acetic acid solution or anaerobic incubation provided the best protection compared with the above conditions for all groups of isolates. These results suggest that temperature, pH, and atmospheric conditions are key factors in establishing strategies for improving the safety of acidified foods.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Food Science and Biotechnology, College of Bioscience and Biotechnology, Kangwon National University, Hyoja 2-dong, Chuncheon 200-701, Republic of Korea 2: Department of Microbiology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27695-7615 3: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, P.O. Box 166, Spur 18D, Clay Center, Nebraska 68933-0166 4: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Western Regional Research Center, 800 Buchanan Street, Albany, California 94710 5: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Department of Food, Bioprocessing, and Nutrition Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27695-7624, USA;, Email:

Publication date: March 1, 2009

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