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Concept: Escherichia coli O157:H7


In order to facilitate foodborne outbreak investigations there is a need to improve the methods for identifying the food products that should be sampled for laboratory analysis. The aim of this study was to examine the applicability of a likelihood ratio approach previously developed on simulated data, to real outbreak data. We used human case and food product distribution data from the Norwegian enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli outbreak in 2006. The approach was adjusted to include time, space smoothing and to handle missing or misclassified information. The performance of the adjusted likelihood ratio approach on the data originating from the HUS outbreak and control data indicates that the adjusted approach is promising and indicates that the adjusted approach could be a useful tool to assist and facilitate the investigation of food borne outbreaks in the future if good traceability are available and implemented in the distribution chain. However, the approach needs to be further validated on other outbreak data and also including other food products than meat products in order to make a more general conclusion of the applicability of the developed approach.

Concepts: Bacteria, Nutrition, Escherichia coli, Food, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Foodborne illness, Food safety, Maslow's hierarchy of needs


Understanding of soil processes is essential for addressing the global issues of food security, disease transmission and climate change. However, techniques for observing soil biology are lacking. We present a heterogeneous, porous, transparent substrate for in situ 3D imaging of living plants and root-associated microorganisms using particles of the transparent polymer, Nafion, and a solution with matching optical properties. Minerals and fluorescent dyes were adsorbed onto the Nafion particles for nutrient supply and imaging of pore size and geometry. Plant growth in transparent soil was similar to that in soil. We imaged colonization of lettuce roots by the human bacterial pathogen Escherichia coli O157:H7 showing micro-colony development. Micro-colonies may contribute to bacterial survival in soil. Transparent soil has applications in root biology, crop genetics and soil microbiology.

Concepts: Genetics, Bacteria, Organism, Microbiology, Escherichia coli, Biotechnology, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Root


Lysozymes are key effectors of the animal innate immunity system that kill bacteria by hydrolyzing peptidoglycan, their major cell wall constituent. Recently, specific inhibitors of the three major lysozyme families occuring in the animal kingdom (c-, g- and i-type) have been discovered in Gram-negative bacteria, and it has been proposed that these may help bacteria to evade lysozyme mediated lysis during interaction with an animal host. Escherichia coli produces two inhibitors that are specific for c-type lysozyme (Ivy, Inhibitor of vertebrate lysozyme; MliC, membrane bound lysozyme inhibitor of c-type lysozyme), and one specific for g-type lysozyme (PliG, periplasmic lysozyme inhibitor of g-type lysozyme). Here, we investigated the role of these lysozyme inhibitors in virulence of Avian Pathogenic E. coli (APEC) using a serum resistance test and a subcutaneous chicken infection model. Knock-out of mliC caused a strong reduction in serum resistance and in in vivo virulence that could be fully restored by genetic complementation, whereas ivy and pliG could be knocked out without effect on serum resistance and virulence. This is the first in vivo evidence for the involvement of lysozyme inhibitors in bacterial virulence. Remarkably, the virulence of a ivy mliC double knock-out strain was restored to almost wild-type level, and this strain also had a substantial residual periplasmic lysozyme inhibitory activity that was higher than that of the single knock-out strains. This suggests the existence of an additional periplasmic lysozyme inhibitor in this strain, and indicates a regulatory interaction in the expression of the different inhibitors.

Concepts: Immune system, Archaea, Bacteria, Microbiology, Virus, Escherichia coli, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Peptidoglycan


This work explores the bactericidal effect of (+)-limonene, the major constituent of citrus fruits' essential oils, against E. coli. The degree of E. coli BJ4 inactivation achieved by (+)-limonene was influenced by the pH of the treatment medium, being more bactericidal at pH 4.0 than at pH 7.0. Deletion of rpoS and exposure to a sub-lethal heat or an acid shock did not modify E. coli BJ4 resistance to (+)-limonene. However, exposure to a sub-lethal cold shock decreased its resistance to (+)-limonene. Although no sub-lethal injury was detected in the cell envelopes after exposure to (+)-limonene by the selective-plating technique, the uptake of propidium iodide by inactivated E. coli BJ4 cells pointed out these structures as important targets in the mechanism of action. Attenuated Total Reflectance Infrared Microspectroscopy (ATR-IRMS) allowed identification of altered E. coli BJ4 structures after (+)-limonene treatments as a function of the treatment pH: β-sheet proteins at pH 4.0 and phosphodiester bonds at pH 7.0. The increased sensitivity to (+)-limonene observed at pH 4.0 in an E. coli MC4100 lptD4213 mutant with an increased outer membrane permeability along with the identification of altered β-sheet proteins by ATR-IRMS indicated the importance of this structure in the mechanism of action of (+)-limonene. The study of mechanism of inactivation by (+)-limonene led to the design of a synergistic combined process with heat for the inactivation of the pathogen E. coli O157:H7 in fruit juices. These results show the potential of (+)-limonene in food preservation, either acting alone or in combination with lethal heat treatments.

Concepts: DNA, Bacteria, Escherichia coli, Citrus, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Fruit, Foodborne illness, Juice vesicles


The ability of Escherichia coli O157:H7 to induce cellular damage leading to disease in humans is related to numerous virulence factors, most notably stx gene encoding Shiga toxin (Stx), carried by a bacteriophage. Loss of the Stx encoding bacteriophage may occur during infection or culturing of the strain. Here, we collected stx-positive and stx-negative variants of E. coli O157:H7/NM (non-motile) isolates from patients with gastrointestinal complaints. Isolates were characterized by whole genome sequencing (WGS) and their virulence properties and phylogenetic relationship were determined. Because of the presence of the eae gene but lack of the bfpA gene, the stx-negative isolates were considered as atypical enteropathogenic E. coli (aEPEC). However, they had similar phenotypic characteristics as the Shiga toxin producing E. coli (STEC) isolates and belonged to the same sequence type ST11. Furthermore, EPEC and STEC isolates shared similar virulence genes, the locus of enterocyte effacement region and plasmids. Core-genome phylogenetic analysis using a gene-by-gene typing approach showed that the sorbitol fermenting (SF) stx-negative isolates clustered together with an SF STEC isolate and one non-sorbitol fermenting (NSF) stx-negative isolate clustered together with NSF STEC isolates. Therefore, these stx-negative isolates were thought either to have lost the Stx phage or to be a progenitor of STEC O157:H7/NM. As detection of STEC infections is often based solely on the identification of the presence of stx genes, these may be misdiagnosed in routine laboratories. Therefore, an improved diagnostic approach is required to manage identification, treatment strategy and prevention of transmission of these potentially pathogenic strains.

Concepts: DNA, Bacteria, Molecular biology, Genome, Escherichia coli, Plasmid, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Shiga toxin


Identifying the major sources of risk in disease transmission is key to designing effective controls. However, understanding of transmission dynamics across species boundaries is typically poor, making the design and evaluation of controls particularly challenging for zoonotic pathogens. One such global pathogen is Escherichia coli O157, which causes a serious and sometimes fatal gastrointestinal illness. Cattle are the main reservoir for E. coli O157, and vaccines for cattle now exist. However, adoption of vaccines is being delayed by conflicting responsibilities of veterinary and public health agencies, economic drivers, and because clinical trials cannot easily test interventions across species boundaries, lack of information on the public health benefits. Here, we examine transmission risk across the cattle-human species boundary and show three key results. First, supershedding of the pathogen by cattle is associated with the genetic marker stx2. Second, by quantifying the link between shedding density in cattle and human risk, we show that only the relatively rare supershedding events contribute significantly to human risk. Third, we show that this finding has profound consequences for the public health benefits of the cattle vaccine. A naïve evaluation based on efficacy in cattle would suggest a 50% reduction in risk; however, because the vaccine targets the major source of human risk, we predict a reduction in human cases of nearly 85%. By accounting for nonlinearities in transmission across the human-animal interface, we show that adoption of these vaccines by the livestock industry could prevent substantial numbers of human E. coli O157 cases.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Bacteria, Vaccine, Vaccination, Escherichia coli, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Shiga toxin, Foodborne illness


The literature on hand washing, while extensive, often contains conflicting data, and key variables are only superficially studied or not studied at all. Some hand washing recommendations are made without scientific support, and agreement between recommendations is limited. The influence of key variables such as soap volume, lather time, water temperature, and product formulation on hand washing efficacy was investigated in the present study. Baseline conditions were 1 mL of a bland (nonantimicrobial) soap, a 5-s lather time, and 38°C (100°F) water temperature. A nonpathogenic strain of Escherichia coli (ATCC 11229) was the challenge microorganism. Twenty volunteers (10 men and 10 women) participated in the study, and each test condition had 20 replicates. An antimicrobial soap formulation (1% chloroxylenol) was not significantly more effective than the bland soap for removing E. coli under a variety of test conditions. Overall, the mean reduction was 1.94 log CFU (range, 1.83 to 2.10 log CFU) with the antimicrobial soap and 2.22 log CFU (range, 1.91 to 2.54 log CFU) with the bland soap. Overall, lather time significantly influenced efficacy in one scenario, in which a 0.5-log greater reduction was observed after 20 s with bland soap compared with the baseline wash (P = 0.020). Water temperature as high as 38°C (100°F) and as low as 15°C (60°F) did not have a significant effect on the reduction of bacteria during hand washing; however, the energy usage differed between these temperatures. No significant differences were observed in mean log reductions experienced by men and women (both 2.08 log CFU; P = 0.988). A large part of the variability in the data was associated with the behaviors of the volunteers. Understanding what behaviors and human factors most influence hand washing may help researchers find techniques to optimize the effectiveness of hand washing.

Concepts: Bacteria, Effectiveness, Escherichia coli, Thermodynamics, Enterobacteriaceae, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Escherichia, Proteobacteria


The PulseNet surveillance system is a molecular subtyping network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories designed to identify and facilitate investigation of foodborne illness outbreaks. This study estimates health and economic impacts associated with PulseNet. The staggered adoption of PulseNet across the states offers a natural experiment to evaluate its effectiveness, which is measured as reduction of reported illnesses due to improved information, enhanced industry accountability, and more-rapid recalls. Economic impacts attributable to PulseNet include medical costs and productivity losses averted due to reduced illness. Program costs are also reported. Better information and accountability from enhanced surveillance is associated with large reductions of reported illnesses. Data collected between 1994 and 2009 were assembled and analyzed between 2010 and 2015. Conservatively, accounting for underreporting and underdiagnosis, 266,522 illnesses from Salmonella, 9,489 illnesses from Escherichia coli (E. coli), and 56 illnesses due to Listeria monocytogenes are avoided annually. This reduces medical and productivity costs by $507 million. Additionally, direct effects from improved recalls reduce illnesses from E. coli by 2,819 and Salmonella by 16,994, leading to $37 million in costs averted. Annual costs to public health agencies are $7.3 million. The PulseNet system makes possible the identification of food safety risks by detecting widespread or non-focal outbreaks. This gives stakeholders information for informed decision making and provides a powerful incentive for industry. Furthermore, PulseNet enhances the focus of regulatory agencies and limits the impact of outbreaks. The health and economic benefits from PulseNet and the foodborne disease surveillance system are substantial.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Bacteria, Escherichia coli, Illness, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Foodborne illness, Gastroenteritis, Food safety


Rapid detection of the foodborne pathogen Escherichia coli O157:H7 is of vital importance for public health worldwide. Among detection methods, reporter phages represent unique and sensitive tools for the detection of E. coli O157:H7 from food as they are host-specific and able to differentiate live cells from dead ones. Upon infection, target bacteria become identifiable since reporter genes are expressed from the engineered phage genome. The E. coli O157:H7 bacteriophage ΦV10 was modified to express NanoLuc luciferase (Nluc) derived from the deep-sea shrimp Oplophorus gracilirostris. Once infected by the ΦV10 reporter phage, E. coli O157:H7 produces a strong bioluminescent signal upon addition of commercial luciferin (Nano-Glo(®)). Enrichment assays using E. coli O157:H7 grown in LB broth with a reporter phage concentration of 1.76 × 10(2) pfu ml(-1) are capable of detecting approximately 5 CFU in 7 hours. Comparable detection was achieved within 9 hours using 9.23 × 10(3) pfu ml(-1) of phage in selective culture enrichments of ground beef as a representative food matrix. Therefore we conclude that this NanoLuc reporter phage assay shows promise for detection of E. coli O157:H7 from food in a simple, fast and sensitive manner.

Concepts: Bacteria, Genome, Escherichia coli, Plasmid, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Shiga toxin, Diarrhea, Foodborne illness


This work addresses the inactivation achieved with Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Listeria monocytogenes EGD-e by combined processes of high hydrostatic pressure (HHP) and essential oils (EOs) or their chemical constituents (CCs). HHP treatments (175-400MPa for 20min) were combined with 200μL/L of each EO (Citrus sinensis L., Citrus lemon L., Citrus reticulata L., Thymus algeriensis L., Eucalyptus globulus L., Rosmarinus officinalis L., Mentha pulegium L., Juniperus phoenicea L., and Cyperus longus L.) or each CC ((+)-limonene, α-pinene, β-pinene, p-cymene, thymol, carvacrol, borneol, linalool, terpinen-4-ol, 1,8-cineole, α-terpinyl acetate, camphor, and (+)-pulegone) in buffer of pH 4.0 or 7.0. The tested combinations achieved different degrees of inactivation, the most effective being (+)-limonene, carvacrol, C. reticulata L. EO, T. algeriensis L. EO and C. sinensis L. EO which were capable of inactivating about 4-5 log(10) cycles of the initial cell populations in combination with HHP, and therefore showed outstanding synergistic effects. (+)-Limonene was also capable of inactivating 5 log(10) cycles of the initial E. coli O157:H7 population in combination with HHP (300MPa for 20min) in orange and apple juices, and a direct relationship was established between the inactivation degree caused by the combined process with (+)-limonene and the occurrence of sublethal injury after the HHP treatment. This work shows the potential of EOs and CCs in the inactivation of foodborne pathogens in combined treatments with HHP, and proposes their possible use in liquid food such as fruit juices.

Concepts: Bacteria, Escherichia coli, Citrus, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Orange, Foodborne illness, Essential oil, Lemon