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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2008 Mar;74(5):1464-8. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02426-07. Epub 2008 Jan 11.

Heavy-metal and benzalkonium chloride resistance of Listeria monocytogenes isolates from the environment of turkey-processing plants.

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  • 1Department of Food Science, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7624, USA.


The resistance of Listeria monocytogenes to cadmium and arsenic has been used extensively for strain subtyping. However, limited information is available on the prevalence of such resistance among isolates from the environment of food-processing plants. In addition, it is not known whether the resistance of such isolates to heavy metals may correlate with resistance to quaternary ammonium compounds extensively used as disinfectants in the food-processing industry. In this study, we characterized 192 L. monocytogenes isolates (123 putative strains) from the environment of turkey-processing plants in the United States for resistance to cadmium and arsenic and to the quaternary ammonium disinfectant benzalkonium chloride (BC). Resistance to cadmium was significantly more prevalent among strains of serotypes 1/2a (or 3a) and 1/2b (or 3b) (83% and 74%, respectively) than among strains of the serotype 4b complex (19%). Resistance to BC was encountered among 60% and 51% of the serotype 1/2a (or 3a) and 1/2b (or 3b) strains, respectively, and among 7% of the strains of the serotype 4b complex. All BC-resistant strains were also resistant to cadmium, although the reverse was not always the case. In contrast, no correlation was found between BC resistance and resistance to arsenic, which overall was low (6%). Our findings suggest that the processing environment of turkey-processing plants may constitute a reservoir for L. monocytogenes harboring resistance to cadmium and to BC and raise the possibility of common genetic elements or mechanisms mediating resistance to quaternary ammonium disinfectants and to cadmium in L. monocytogenes.

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