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Int J Food Microbiol. 2017 Jan 2;240:141-151. doi: 10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2016.10.011. Epub 2016 Oct 12.

Quantitative assessment of human exposure to extended spectrum and AmpC β-lactamases bearing E. coli in lettuce attributable to irrigation water and subsequent horizontal gene transfer.

Author information

1
Department of Food Science, University of Pretoria, Lynwood Road, Pretoria 0002, South Africa; Institute for Food, Nutrition and Well-being, University of Pretoria, South Africa; Division for Epidemiology and Microbial Genomics, National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, Søltofts Plads, 2800 Kgs. Lyngby, Denmark. Electronic address: kamau.patrick@gmail.com.
2
Department of Food Science, University of Pretoria, Lynwood Road, Pretoria 0002, South Africa; Institute for Food, Nutrition and Well-being, University of Pretoria, South Africa. Electronic address: elna.buys@up.ac.za.

Abstract

The contribution of the fresh produce production environment to human exposure with bacteria bearing extended spectrum β-lactamases and AmpC β-lactamases (ESBL/AmpC) has not been reported. High prevalence of ESBLs/AmpC bearing E. coli as well as a high gene transfer efficiency of lettuce and irrigation water E. coli isolates was previously reported. This stochastic modeling was aimed at quantitatively assessing human exposure to ESBL/AmpC bearing E. coli through lettuce attributable to irrigation water and subsequent horizontal gene transfer. Modular process risk approach was used for the quantitative exposure assessment and models were constructed in Ms. Excel spreadsheet with farm to consumption chain accounted for by primary production, processing, retail and consumer storage. Probability distributions were utilised to take into account the variability of the exposure estimates. Exposure resulting from ESBL/AmpC positive E. coli and gene transfer was taken into account. Monte Carlo simulation was carried out using @Risk software followed by sensitivity and scenario analysis to assess most effective single or combinations of mitigation strategies for the ESBL/AmpC positive E. coli events from farm to fork. Three percent of South African lettuce consumers are exposed to lettuce contaminated with about 106.4±106.7 (95% CI: 105.1-107) cfu of ESBL/AmpC positive E. coli per serving. The contribution of originally positive isolates and conjugative genetic transfer was 106±106.7 (95% CI: 105-107) and 105.2±105.6 (95% CI: 103.9-105.8) cfu per serving respectively. Proportion of ESBL/AmpC positive E. coli (Spearman's correlation coefficient (ρ)=0.85), conjugative gene transfer (ρ=0.05-0.14), washing in chlorine water (ρ=0.18), further rinsing (ρ=0.15), and prevalence of E. coli in irrigation water (ρ=0.16) had highest influence on consumer exposure. The most effective single methods in reducing consumer exposure were reduction in irrigation water microbial quality variation (87.4% reduction), storage period (49.9-87.4% reduction) and growth rate reduction by 75% (90% reduction). Reduction in growth rate together with storage time (92.1-99.4%) and reduction in storage time combined with E. coli concentration in irrigation water (95-96% reduction) were most effective combinations of mitigation measures. The high variation in exposure reflected the high irrigation water quality variation. The exposure levels may impose higher consumer risk than acceptable for irrigation water risk. E. coli contamination and growth related measures, as well as measures to reduce contamination with antimicrobial resistant E. coli from lettuce production environment are recommended. This exposure model could form a basis for the development of similar models assessing the impact of contaminated irrigation water and gene transfer in other microbial hazards, antimicrobial resistance types and fresh produce types.

KEYWORDS:

AmpC β-lactamases; E. coli; Exposure assessment; Extended spectrum β-lactamases; Fresh produce; Irrigation water

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