Prevalence of Listeria monocytogenes in fresh and fermented Italian sausages and ribotyping of contaminating strains

Alessandra De Cesare, Renzo Mioni, Gerardo Manfreda
International Journal of Food Microbiology 2007 November 30, 120 (1): 124-30
Listeria monocytogenes has been detected in fresh as well as dry and semidry fermented sausages, rendering preparation and consumption of these products as a potential risk to human health. The aims of this study were (1) to evaluate the L. monocytogenes prevalence in 288 fresh and 237 fermented sausages produced in northern Italy; (2) to quantify the average pathogen Most Probable Number (MPN) per g of sausage; (3) to evaluate the sausage strain genetic diversity by automated PvuII ribotyping; and (4) to predict the pathogenicity lineage of these isolates determining their DuPont Identification Library Codes (DUP-IDs) by EcoRI ribotyping. The overall prevalence of L. monocytogenes in the sampled sausages was 28.2%. The percentage of L. monocytogenes positive fresh sausages was significantly higher than that of fermented sausages (i.e. 38.9 vs 15.2%), which had a pathogen load always lower than 10 MPN/g. In contrast, 16.1% of fresh sausages were contaminated by 10 to 100 MPN/g and 20.5% had more than 100 MPN/g. PvuII successfully discriminated sausage isolates with a Simpson's numerical index of discrimination of 0.637. A total of 12 and 9 different PvuII ribogroups were identified among 47 fresh and 24 fermented randomly selected sausage strains, respectively. Six of those ribogroups were shared between strains contaminating both kinds of sausages. According to the evaluation of the strain DUP-IDs, the majority of the isolates investigated in this study were part of the type II L. monocytogenes pathogenicity lineage, but type I lineage strains were identified among fermented sausage isolates. In conclusion, L. monocytogenes prevalence in Italian sausages was estimated to be around 28.2%. However, 84.2% of the samples were contaminated by less than 100 MPN of L. monocytogenes per g and the majority of L. monocytogenes contaminating strains would be classified in the type II pathogenicity lineage, including serotypes 1/2a, 1/2c and 3a.

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