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Res Microbiol. 2009 Jun;160(5):345-52. doi: 10.1016/j.resmic.2009.05.002. Epub 2009 May 27.

Stress response and pathogenic potential of Campylobacter jejuni cells exposed to starvation.

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Department of Food Science and Technology, University of Ljubljana, Jamnikarjeva, Slovenia.


Campylobacter jejuni is a Gram-negative, fragile, spiral bacterium, known worldwide to be a major cause of acute human enteritis. Like many other food-borne bacteria, campylobacters must be able to survive under diverse conditions both inside the host and in the environment. Understanding stress response mechanisms provides information necessary for improving food processing and strategies that enhance food safety as well as clarifying the pathogenesis of campylobacteriosis. We investigated the relation between stress response to starvation and pathogenic potential in C. jejuni. Starvation changed the morphology and physiology of C. jejuni cells. However, the lower metabolic activity of 5-h-starved culture was not a dormant state, but probably a viable but non-culturable (VBNC) form of the cells, since starved C. jejuni induced heat stress resistance. The health hazard potential of starved cells is still unclear. We showed that, in spite of starvation, C. jejuni survived in vitro within Caco-2 enterocites up to 4 days and caused systemic campylobacteriosis in vivo in a mouse model. However, bacterial numbers in investigated organs were significantly lower and the infection was resolved sooner. Our results show that nutrient insufficiency is responsible for C. jejuni transformation, influencing but not abolishing its survival and virulence properties while in the VBNC state.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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