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Int J Food Microbiol. 2006 May 25;109(1-2):132-8. Epub 2006 Feb 24.

Emetic toxin-producing strains of Bacillus cereus show distinct characteristics within the Bacillus cereus group.

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INRA, UMR 408, Sécurité et Qualité des Produits d'Orgine Végétale, F-84914 Avignon, France.


One hundred representative strains of Bacillus cereus were selected from a total collection of 372 B. cereus strains using two typing methods (RAPD and FT-IR) to investigate if emetic toxin-producing hazardous B. cereus strains possess characteristic growth and heat resistance profiles. The strains were classified into three groups: emetic toxin (cereulide)-producing strains (n=17), strains connected to diarrheal foodborne outbreaks (n=40) and food-environment strains (n=43), these latter not producing the emetic toxin. Our study revealed a shift in growth limits towards higher temperatures for the emetic strains, regardless of their origin. None of the emetic toxin-producing strains were able to grow below 10 degrees Celsius. In contrast, 11% (9 food-environment strains) out of the 83 non-emetic toxin-producing strains were able to grow at 4 degrees Celsius and 49% at 7 degrees Celsius (28 diarrheal and 13 food-environment strains). non-emetic toxin-producing strains. All emetic toxin-producing strains were able to grow at 48 degrees Celsius, but only 39% (16 diarrheal and 16 food-environment strains) of the non-emetic toxin-producing strains grew at this temperature. Spores from the emetic toxin-producing strains showed, on average, a higher heat resistance at 90 degrees Celsius and a lower germination, particularly at 7 degrees Celsius, than spores from the other strains. No difference between the three groups in their growth kinetics at 24 degrees Celsius, 37 degrees Celsius, and pH 5.0, 7.0, and 8.0 was observed. Our survey shows that emetic toxin-producing strains of B. cereus have distinct characteristics, which could have important implication for the risk assessment of the emetic type of B. cereus caused food poisoning. For instance, emetic strains still represent a special risk in heat-processed foods or preheated foods that are kept warm (in restaurants and cafeterias), but should not pose a risk in refrigerated foods.

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