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J Food Prot. 1999 Aug;62(8):839-44.

Nucleic acid persistence in heat-killed Escherichia coli O157:H7 from contaminated skim milk.

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Department of Food Science and Technology, Southeast Dairy Foods Research Center, Mississippi State University, Mississippi 39762, USA.


Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and reverse transcriptase (RT)-PCR using primers targeting 16S rRNA sequences in Escherichia coli O157:H7 were applied to monitor the stability of rDNA and rRNA in cells killed by mild heat treatment (60 degrees C) in skim milk. Serial dilutions of purified RNA and DNA from E. coli O157:H7 in skim milk were amplified by RT-PCR or PCR, respectively, before heat treatment and at time points 0, 6, 12, 24, and 48 h after heating. In general, DNA-PCR provided stronger amplification signals compared to RT-PCR at the corresponding time points with the same PCR primer set, indicating a lower efficiency of RNA amplification compared to that of DNA. Ribosomal RNA and rDNA could be amplified by RT-PCR or PCR from both viable and dead cells throughout the 48-h posttreatment holding period. For RT-PCR, amplification signals decreased in intensity with increased holding time, while the efficiency of amplification of DNA sequences from dead cells remained fairly stable throughout the study. DNA persistence was greater than that of rRNA following cell death by mild heat treatment in skim milk. Skim milk did not appear to accelerate nucleic acid degradation. While rRNA was less stable than DNA, its detection by RT-PCR may not be appropriate as an exclusive indicator of cell viability in minimally processed foods.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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