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Microb Biotechnol. 2014 Nov;7(6):496-516. doi: 10.1111/1751-7915.12186.

Biofilm formation by enteric pathogens and its role in plant colonization and persistence.

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Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, 32000, Israel.


The significant increase in foodborne outbreaks caused by contaminated fresh produce, such as alfalfa sprouts, lettuce, melons, tomatoes and spinach, during the last 30 years stimulated investigation of the mechanisms of persistence of human pathogens on plants. Emerging evidence suggests that Salmonella enterica and Escherichia coli, which cause the vast majority of fresh produce outbreaks, are able to adhere to and to form biofilms on plants leading to persistence and resistance to disinfection treatments, which subsequently can cause human infections and major outbreaks. In this review, we present the current knowledge about host, bacterial and environmental factors that affect the attachment to plant tissue and the process of biofilm formation by S. enterica and E. coli, and discuss how biofilm formation assists in persistence of pathogens on the plants. Mechanisms used by S. enterica and E. coli to adhere and persist on abiotic surfaces and mammalian cells are partially similar and also used by plant pathogens and symbionts. For example, amyloid curli fimbriae, part of the extracellular matrix of biofilms, frequently contribute to adherence and are upregulated upon adherence and colonization of plant material. Also the major exopolysaccharide of the biofilm matrix, cellulose, is an adherence factor not only of S. enterica and E. coli, but also of plant symbionts and pathogens. Plants, on the other hand, respond to colonization by enteric pathogens with a variety of defence mechanisms, some of which can effectively inhibit biofilm formation. Consequently, plant compounds might be investigated for promising novel antibiofilm strategies.

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