Where the Wild Microbes Are: A New Theory on How Pathogens Survive Food Processing

Produce borne diseases have recently been gracing the front pages of our media. Our spinach has E. coli, our onions have Hepatitis A virus and E. coli, our strawberries have Listeria, and our tomatoes and peanut butter have Salmonella. Not to mention the countless tons of ground beef tainted with pathogenic E. coli.

Common sense says that washing and proper handling of our food should simply be enough to prevent illness outbreaks. It has now been hypothesized that many bacteria were able to “hide” within and among the plant cells, protected by their sturdy cell wall. Or even that some pathogenic bacteria were able to enter the cells and remain protected from traditional washing methods.

An article in this month’s Applied and Environmental Microbiology looks at a much different method of bacterial survival on produce. They hypothesize that these bacteria are taking refuge in various protozoa, and subsequently are protected from washing and other sanitation methods due to being held either within the cell or an exogenous cell-derived vesicle.

Head on over to Blogging for Bacteriophages to read more about the ways these bacteria hunker down in protists on our produce.

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