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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2005 Jul;71(7):4052-6.

Mediterranean fruit fly as a potential vector of bacterial pathogens.

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Department of Food Sciences, ARO, The Volcani Center, Beth-Dagan 50250, Israel.


The Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata) is a cosmopolitan pest of hundreds of species of commercial and wild fruits. It is considered a major economic pest of commercial fruits in the world. Adult Mediterranean fruit flies feed on all sorts of protein sources, including animal excreta, in order to develop eggs. After reaching sexual maturity and copulating, female flies lay eggs in fruit by puncturing the skin with their ovipositors and injecting batches of eggs into the wounds. In view of the increase in food-borne illnesses associated with consumption of fresh produce and unpasteurized fruit juices, we investigated the potential of Mediterranean fruit fly to serve as a vector for transmission of human pathogens to fruits. Addition of green fluorescent protein (GFP)-tagged Escherichia coli to a Mediterranean fruit fly feeding solution resulted in a dose-dependent increase in the fly's bacterial load. Flies exposed to fecal material enriched with GFP-tagged E. coli were similarly contaminated and were capable of transmitting E. coli to intact apples in a cage model system. Washing contaminated apples with tap water did not eliminate the E. coli. Flies inoculated with E. coli harbored the bacteria for up to 7 days following contamination. Fluorescence microscopy demonstrated that the majority of fluorescent bacteria were confined along the pseudotrachea in the labelum edge of the fly proboscis. Wild flies captured at various geographic locations were found to carry coliforms, and in some cases presumptive identification of E. coli was made. These findings support the hypothesis that the common Mediterranean fruit fly is a potential vector of human pathogens to fruits.

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