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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2002 Jun;68(6):3114-20.

Differences in growth of Salmonella enterica and Escherichia coli O157:H7 on alfalfa sprouts.

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  • 1Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA.


Sprout producers have recently been faced with several Salmonella enterica and Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreaks. Many of the outbreaks have been traced to sprout seeds contaminated with low levels of human pathogens. Alfalfa seeds were inoculated with S. enterica and E. coli O157:H7 strains isolated from alfalfa seeds or other environmental sources and sprouted to examine growth of these human pathogens in association with sprouting seeds. S. enterica strains grew an average of 3.7 log(10) on sprouting seeds over 2 days, while E. coli O157:H7 strains grew significantly less, an average of 2.3 log(10). The initial S. enterica or E. coli O157:H7 inoculum dose and seed-sprouting temperature significantly affected the levels of both S. enterica and E. coli O157:H7 on the sprouts and in the irrigation water, while the frequency of irrigation water replacement affected only the levels of E. coli O157:H7. Colonization of sprouting alfalfa seeds by S. enterica serovar Newport and E. coli O157:H7 strains transformed with a plasmid encoding the green fluorescent protein was examined with fluorescence microscopy. Salmonella serovar Newport colonized both seed coats and sprout roots as aggregates, while E. coli O157:H7 colonized only sprout roots.

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