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Front Microbiol. 2013 Feb 28;4:36. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2013.00036. eCollection 2013.

New developments in the study of the microbiota of raw-milk, long-ripened cheeses by molecular methods: the case of Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano.

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Department of Food Science, University of Parma Parma, Italy.


Microorganisms are an essential component of cheeses and play important roles during both cheese manufacture and ripening. Both starter and secondary flora modify the physical and chemical properties of cheese, contributing and reacting to changes that occur during the manufacture and ripening of cheese. As the composition of microbial population changes under the influence of continuous shifts in environmental conditions and microorganisms interactions during manufacturing and ripening, the characteristics of a given cheese depend also on microflora dynamics. The microbiota present in cheese is complex and its growth and activity represent the most important, but the least controllable steps. In the past, research in this area was dependent on classical microbiological techniques. However, culture-dependent methods are time-consuming and approaches that include a culturing step can lead to inaccuracies due to species present in low numbers or simply uncultivable. Therefore, they cannot be used as a unique tool to monitor community dynamics. For these reasons approaches to cheese microbiology had to change dramatically. To address this, in recent years the focus on the use of culture-independent methods based on the direct analysis of DNA (or RNA) has rapidly increased. Application of such techniques to the study of cheese microbiology represents a rapid, sound, reliable, and effective way for the detection and identification of the microorganisms present in dairy products, leading to major advances in understanding this complex microbial ecosystem and its impact on cheese ripening and quality. In this article, an overview on the recent advances in the use of molecular methods for thorough analysis of microbial communities in cheeses is given. Furthermore, applications of culture-independent approaches to study the microbiology of two important raw-milk, long-ripened cheeses such as Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano, are presented.


culture-dependent methods; culture-independent methods; long-ripened cheeses microbiota; non-starter lactic acid bacteria; raw-milk; starter lactic acid bacteria; whey starter

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