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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2002 Oct;68(10):4758-63.

Differences in attachment of Salmonella enterica serovars and Escherichia coli O157:H7 to alfalfa sprouts.

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Produce Safety and Microbiological Research, Western Regional Research Center, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Albany, California 94710, USA.


Numerous Salmonella enterica and Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreaks have been associated with contaminated sprouts. We examined how S. enterica serovars, E. coli serotypes, and nonpathogenic bacteria isolated from alfalfa sprouts grow on and adhere to alfalfa sprouts. Growth on and adherence to sprouts were not significantly different among different serovars of S. enterica, but all S. enterica serovars grew on and adhered to alfalfa sprouts significantly better than E. coli O157:H7. E. coli O157:H7 was essentially rinsed from alfalfa sprouts with repeated washing steps, while 1 to 2 log CFU of S. enterica remained attached per sprout. S. enterica Newport adhered to 3-day-old sprouts as well as Pantoea agglomerans and 10-fold more than Pseudomonas putida and Rahnella aquatilis, whereas the growth rates of all four strains throughout seed sprouting were similar. S. enterica Newport and plant-associated bacteria adhered 10- to 1,000-fold more than E. coli O157:H7; however, three of four other E. coli serotypes, isolated from cabbage roots exposed to sewage water following a spill, adhered to sprouts better than E. coli O157:H7 and as well as the Pseudomonas and Rahnella strains. Therefore, attachment to alfalfa sprouts among E. coli serotypes is variable, and nonpathogenic strains of E. coli to be used as surrogates for the study of pathogenic E. coli may be difficult to identify and should be selected carefully, with knowledge of the biology being examined.

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