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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1997 Mar;63(3):924-30.

Nitrate-reducing bacteria on rat tongues.

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  • 1Department of Plant & Soil Science, University of Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom.


Nitrite-producing bacteria (NPB) were isolated from tongues of laboratory rats. The most commonly found nitrite-producing organism was Staphylococcus sciuri, followed by Staphylococcus intermedius, Pasteurella spp., and finally Streptococcus spp. Both morphometric quantification of bacteria on tongue sections and enumeration of culturable bacteria (CFU) showed an increase in the density of bacteria towards the posterior tongue. Up to 65% of bacteria were located in the deep clefts on the posterior tongue. The proportion of culturable NPB in the total culturable microbial population increased from 6% (10(5) CFU cm-2) on the anterior tongue to 65% (10(7) CFU cm-2) on the posterior tongue. Different species compositions of NPB were found on different tongue sections with S. intermedius populations decreasing and S. sciuri and Pasteurella populations increasing towards the posterior tongue. Nitrite production was sensitive to oxygen, and significant nitrite production was only detected on the posterior tongue where the majority of bacteria are situated in deep clefts in the tongue surface. This study suggests the importance of bacteria in nitrite production, from nitrate, on the tongue. Nitrite produced on the tongue may subsequently form nitric oxide in the acidic environment of the stomach. Because of the antimicrobial properties of nitric oxide, a key role for nitrate-reducing tongue bacteria in host animal defense against food-borne pathogens in proposed.

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