Variability in growth responses of non-O157 EHEC isolates in leafy vegetables, sprouted seed and soil extracts occurs at the isolate level

Bernhard Merget, Ulrich Dobrindt, Ken J Forbes, Norval J. C. Strachan, Fiona Brennan, Nicola J. Holden (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Foods of plant origin are recognised as a major source of food-borne pathogens, in particular for Shigatoxigenic Escherichia coli (STEC). Most work for STEC and plant-based fresh produce has focused on the most prevalent outbreak serogroup, O157. However, non-O157 STEC are an emerging hazard, and as such it is important to characterise aspects within this group that reflect their ability to colonise alternative hosts and habitats relevant to horticultural production. Growth kinetics were quantified for a diverse set of clinical enterohaemorrhagic E. coli isolates in extracts made from different tissues of spinach, lettuce or sprouted seeds, or from soil, to represent association with ready-to-eat fresh produce production. For leafy vegetables, spinach apoplast supported the fastest rates of growth and lettuce root extracts generated the slowest growth rates. Growth rates were similar for the majority of isolates in fenugreek or alfalfa sprouted seed extracts. Monosaccharides were the major driver of bacterial growth. No correlations were found for growth rates between different serotypes or for Shigatoxin gene carriage. Thus, growth rates varied in a plant-dependent and isolate-dependent manner, for all plant or soil extracts tested, indicative of isolate-specific differences in metabolic flexibility. These findings are relevant for risk assessment of non-O157 STEC.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFEMS Microbiology Letters
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Feb 2020



  • EHEC
  • STEC
  • leafy vegetables
  • soil
  • E. coli O157:H7

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