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PLoS One. 2013 Oct 24;8(10):e79404. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0079404. eCollection 2013.

Interaction of phytophagous insects with Salmonella enterica on plants and enhanced persistence of the pathogen with Macrosteles quadrilineatus infestation or Frankliniella occidentalis feeding.

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Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, United States of America.


Recently, most foodborne illness outbreaks of salmonellosis have been caused by consumption of contaminated fresh produce. Yet, the mechanisms that allow the human pathogen Salmonella enterica to contaminate and grow in plant environments remain poorly described. We examined the effect of feeding by phytophagous insects on survival of S. enterica on lettuce. Larger S. enterica populations were found on leaves infested with Macrosteles quadrilineatus. In contrast, pathogen populations among plants exposed to Frankliniella occidentalis or Myzus persicae were similar to those without insects. However, on plants infested with F. occidentalis, areas of the infested leaf with feeding damage sustained higher S. enterica populations than areas without damage. The spatial distribution of S. enterica cells on leaves infested with F. occidentalis may be altered resulting in higher populations in feeding lesions or survival may be different across a leaf dependent on local damage. Results suggest the possibility of some specificity with select insects and the persistence of S. enterica. Additionally, we demonstrated the potential for phytophagous insects to become contaminated with S. enterica from contaminated plant material. S. enterica was detected in approximately 50% of all M. quadrilineatus, F. occidentalis, and M. persicae after 24 h exposure to contaminated leaves. Particularly, 17% of F. occidentalis, the smallest of the insects tested, harbored more than 10(2) CFU/F. occidentalis. Our results show that phytophagous insects may influence the population dynamics of S. enterica in agricultural crops. This study provides evidence of a human bacterial pathogen interacting with phytophagous insect during plant infestation.

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