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Front Microbiol. 2017 Apr 7;8:579. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2017.00579. eCollection 2017.

Turn Up the Heat-Food and Clinical Escherichia coli Isolates Feature Two Transferrable Loci of Heat Resistance.

Author information

1
Department of Microbiology and Infection Control, Statens Serum InstitutCopenhagen, Denmark.
2
Agroscope, Division of Food Microbial Systems, Microbiological Safety of Foods of Animal Origin GroupBern, Switzerland.
3
Department of Food Science, University of CopenhagenCopenhagen, Denmark.

Abstract

Heat treatment is a widely used process to reduce bacterial loads in the food industry or to decontaminate surfaces, e.g., in hospital settings. However, there are situations where lower temperatures must be employed, for instance in case of food production such as raw milk cheese or for decontamination of medical devices such as thermo-labile flexible endoscopes. A recently identified locus of heat resistance (LHR) has been shown to be present in and confer heat resistance to a variety of Enterobacteriaceae, including Escherichia coli isolates from food production settings and clinical ESBL-producing E. coli isolates. Here, we describe the presence of two distinct LHR variants within a particularly heat resistant E. coli raw milk cheese isolate. We demonstrate for the first time in this species the presence of one of these LHRs on a plasmid, designated pFAM21805, also encoding type 3 fimbriae and three bacteriocins and corresponding self-immunity proteins. The plasmid was highly transferable to other E. coli strains, including Shiga-toxin-producing strains, and conferred LHR-dependent heat resistance as well as type 3 fimbriae-dependent biofilm formation capabilities. Selection for and acquisition of this "survival" plasmid by pathogenic organisms, e.g., in food production environments, may pose great concern and emphasizes the need to screen for the presence of LHR genes in isolates.

KEYWORDS:

E. coli; biofilms; clpK; food production; heat resistance; transfer of heat resistance

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