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Int J Food Microbiol. 2001 Aug 15;68(1-2):105-13.

Prevalence of Staphylococcus aureus and staphylococcal enterotoxins in raw pork and uncooked smoked ham--a comparison of classical culturing detection and RFLP-PCR.

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  • 1Department of Food Hygiene and Microbiology, Centre for Food Science, School of Veterinary Medicine Hanover, Hannover, Germany.


In many countries Staphylococcus aureus is considered to be the second or third most common pathogen causing outbreaks of food poisoning, only outnumbered by Salmonella spp. and in competition with Clostridium perfringens. Often the consumption of ham or meat containing staphylococcal enterotoxins (SE) is identified as cause of the illness. Thus, to gain an insight into the prevalence of S. aureus and its emetic enterotoxins in raw pork and uncooked smoked ham and to investigate how the prevalence of the pathogen is influenced during the fabrication process, a total of 135 samples of raw pork, salted meat and ready-for-sale uncooked smoked ham were examined for the prevalence of S. aureus and staphylococcal enterotoxins A to D (SEA-SED). To this means classical cultural methods were employed as well as molecular biological techniques (PCR) and the results were compared. In 25.9% of all samples S. aureus was detected by culture whereas 51.1% of the samples showed a positive result when PCR was used for the detection of the pathogen. Fresh meat was contaminated most often. By PCR, 62.2% were identified as being S. aureus positive compared to 57.7% positive samples using the cultural technique. The detection rate during the fabrication process declined significantly. The pathogen was cultivated from 8.9% of the salted meat samples. Here, 55.6% of the samples reacted positively in the PCR, and finally, in approximately a third of the ready-for-sale smoked hams, S. aureus genes were found. From 11.1% of these samples, the pathogen could be isolated by culture. From these results, we conclude that the PCR used in this study is more sensitive than the classical cultural method. By PCR, one or more staphylococcal enterotoxin genes were found in 24 of the 135 examined samples. This means that 34.8% of the staphylococcal strains identified using the PCR technique were enterotoxigenic. Using the SET-RPLA, a percentage of 28.6% enterotoxigenic isolates was ascertained. No staphylococcal enterotoxin formation was detected by the SET-RPLA in ready-for-sale ham, although SE-genes were found by PCR. The detection of SE-genes by PCR is faster and easier to perform than the SET-RPLA.

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