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J Food Prot. 2005 Dec;68(12):2506-9.

Internalization of Escherichia coli O157:H7 following biological and mechanical disruption of growing spinach plants.

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Department of Food Science, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.


The internalization and persistence of a bioluminescent Escherichia coli O157:H7 Ph1 was investigated in growing spinach plants that had been either biologically or mechanically damaged. In control (undamaged) plants cultivated in soil microcosms inoculated with E. coli O157:H7 Phl, the bacterium was recovered from surface-sterilized root tissue but not from leaves. Mechanical disruption of the seminal root and root hairs of the plants did not result in the internalization of the pathogen into the aerial leaf tissue. When imprints of the root tissue were made on plates of tryptic soy agar plus ampicillin, no colonies of E. coli O157:H7 were observed around damaged tissue. The roots of growing plants were exposed to the northern root-knot nematode, Meloidogyne hapla, in the presence of E. coli O157:H7. Although this treatment caused knot formation on the roots, it did not enhance the internalization of the bacterium into the plant vascular system. Coinoculation of intact leaves with E. coli O157:H7 and the phytopathogen Pseudomonas syringae DC3000 resulted in localized necrosis, but the persistence of the human pathogen was not affected. The mechanical disruption of roots does not result in the internalization of E. coli O157:H7 into the aerial tissue of spinach, and there does not appear to be any effect of P. syringae in terms of enhancing the persistence of E. coli O157:H7 in spinach leaves.

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