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J Appl Microbiol. 2012 Mar;112(3):417-29. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2011.05204.x. Epub 2011 Dec 20.

Bacillus and relatives in foodborne illness.

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Department of Life Sciences, Glasgow Caledonian University, Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow, UK.


Species of Bacillus and related genera have long been troublesome to food producers on account of their resistant endospores. These organisms have undergone huge taxonomic changes in the last 30 years, with numbers of genera and species now standing at 56 and over 545, respectively. Despite this expansion, relatively few new species have been isolated from infections, few are associated with food and no important new agents of foodborne illness have been reported. What has changed is our knowledge of the established agents. Bacillus cereus is well known as a cause of food poisoning, and much more is now understood about its toxins and their involvement in infections and intoxications. Also, although B. licheniformis, B. subtilis and B. pumilus have occasionally been isolated from cases of food-associated illness, their roles were usually uncertain. Much more is now known about the toxins that strains of these species may produce, so that their significances in such episodes are clearer; however, it is still unclear why such cases are so rarely reported. Another important development is the use of aerobic endosporeformers as probiotics, as the potentials of such organisms to cause illness or to be sources of antibiotic resistance need to be borne in mind.

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