Infection by human pathogens through the consumption of fresh, minimally processed produce and solid plant-derived foods is a major concern of the U.S. and global food industries and of public health services. Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli O157:H7 is a frequent and potent foodborne pathogen that causes severe disease in humans. Biofilms formed by E. coli O157:H7 facilitate cross-contamination by sheltering pathogens and protecting them from cleaning and sanitation operations. The objective of this research was to determine the role that several surface structures of E. coli O157:H7 play in adherence to biotic and abiotic surfaces. A set of isogenic deletion mutants lacking major surface structures was generated. The mutant strains were inoculated onto fresh spinach and glass surfaces, and their capability to adhere was assessed by adherence assays and fluorescence microscopy methods. Our results showed that filament-deficient mutants bound to the spinach leaves and glass surfaces less strongly than the wild-type strain did. We mimicked the switch to the external environment-during which bacteria leave the host organism and adapt to lower ambient temperatures of cultivation or food processing-by decreasing the temperature from 37°C to 25°C and 4°C. We concluded that flagella and some other cell surface proteins are important factors in the process of initial attachment and in the establishment of biofilms. A better understanding of the specific roles of these structures in early stages of biofilm formation can help to prevent cross-contaminations and foodborne disease outbreaks.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Food Science
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology