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J Food Prot. 1998 Aug;61(8):974-8.

Thermal inactivation of Mycobacterium paratuberculosis in milk.

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Department of Food Science and Technology, University of Georgia, Athens 30602, USA.


Thermal inactivation of Mycobacterium paratuberculosis, a suspected human pathogen, was determined in ultrahigh-temperature whole milk. Three strains of M. paratuberculosis were examined for survival at temperatures from 55 to 75 degrees C using a submerged glass capillary tube method. Clumped and declumped suspensions of the cultures were used to determine the rate of heat inactivation and survival at pasteurization temperatures. Methods for declumping M. paratuberculosis included the use of glass beads, vortexing, and passing the cells through a 26-gauge needle. The latter procedure was found to be superior over other methods and did not affect the viability of cells. Capillary tubes filled with milk containing 4 x 10(6) to 3 x 10(7) CFU/ml were heated at temperatures ranging from 55 to 75 degrees C. At 55 degrees C, minimal thermal inactivation was observed for clumped and declumped cells. At 58 degrees C, thermal inactivation ranging from 0.3 to 0.7 log reduction was observed for both clumped and declumped suspensions. D values at 60 degrees C ranged from 8.6 to 11 min and 8.2 to 14.1 min for clumped and declumped cells, respectively. At 63 degrees C, the D values ranged from 2.7 to 2.9 and 1.6 to 2.5 min for clumped and declumped cells, respectively. Survival of M. paratuberculosis at initial levels ranging from 44 to 10(5) CFU/ml at pasteurization treatment (63 degrees C for 30 min and 72 degrees C for 15 s) was also determined. No survivors were observed after incubating plates for up to 4 months on Middlebrook 7H11 agar and up to 2 months on Herrold's egg yolk medium. The sensitivity of the plating method was 1 CFU/250 microliters. These results demonstrate that low levels of M. paratuberculosis, as might be found in raw milk, will not survive pasteurization treatments.

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