Interaction of Escherichia Coli with Growing Salad Spinach Plants

Interaction of Escherichia coli with growing salad spinach plants.

J Food Prot. 2003 Oct;66(10):1790-7.
Warriner K, Ibrahim F, Dickinson M, Wright C, Waites WM.
Division of Food Sciences, School of Biosciences, University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington Campus, Loughborough, Leicestershire LE12 5RD, UK.

In this study, the interaction of a bioluminescence-labeled Escherichia coli strain with growing spinach plants was assessed. Through bioluminescence profiles, the direct visualization of E. coli growing around the roots of developing seedlings was accomplished. Subsequent in situ glucuronidase (GUS) staining of seedlings confirmed that E. coli had become internalized within root tissue and, to a limited extent, within hypocotyls. When inoculated seeds were sown in soil microcosms and cultivated for 42 days, E. coli was recovered from the external surfaces of spinach roots and leaves as well as from surface-sterilized roots. When 20-day-old spinach seedlings (from uninoculated seeds) were transferred to soil inoculated with E. coli, the bacterium became established on the plant surface, but internalization into the inner root tissue was restricted. However, for seedlings transferred to a hydroponic system containing 10(2) or 10(3) CFU of E. coli per ml of the circulating nutrient solution, the bacterium was recovered from surface-sterilized roots, indicating that it had been internalized. Differences between E. coli interactions in the soil and those in the hydroponic system may be attributed to greater accessibility of the roots in the latter model. Alternatively, the presence of a competitive microflora in soil may have restricted root colonization by E. coli. The implications of this study's findings with regard to the microbiological safety of minimally processed vegetables are discussed.