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Transfer of Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium from Contaminated Irrigation Water to Parsley Is Dependent on Curli and Cellulose, the Biofilm Matrix Components

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Enteric pathogens can contaminate fresh produce, and this contaminated produce can be a significant potential source of human illness. The objective of this study was to determine a possible mode of transfer of Salmonella Typhimurium from contaminated irrigation water to mature parsley plants and to investigate the role of bacterial cellulose and curli. Parsley plants were drip irrigated with water containing green fluorescent protein–labeled Salmonella Typhimurium. Stems and leaves were harvested 1 day after the third irrigation and examined for the presence of Salmonella Typhimurium. Three weeks after harvesting, the presence of Salmonella was again confirmed in the regrown plants. During this period, bacterial numbers on leaves declined from 4.1 (±0.3) to 2.3 (±0.1) log CFU g–1 (P < 0.05). Numbers in the soil were constant (5 log CFU g–1). Results demonstrated the ability of Salmonella Typhimurium to transfer from irrigation water to the edible parts of the plants. Confocal laser scanning microscopic images revealed that Salmonella Typhimurium formed aggregates at a depth of 8 to 32 m beneath the leaf surface. Penetration might be achieved through the roots or the phyllosphere. The importance of the bacterial cellulose and curli was determined by comparing the wild-type strain with its mutants, which lack the ability to synthesize cellulose and curli. Counts of the double mutant were 2-log higher in the soil but 1-log lower in the leaves (P < 0.05). Deletion of the agfBA gene (for curli) was more effective than deletion of bcsA (for cellulose). Thus, curli and cellulose play a role in the transfer or survival of Salmonella Typhimurium in the plant, as they do for plant pathogens.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering, Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa 32000, Israel 2: Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering, Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa 32000, Israel;, Email:

Publication date: March 1, 2009

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