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Phenotypic characteristics that may contribute to persistence of Salmonella strains in the pistachio supply chain.

Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica strain diversity in California pistachios is limited; some strains have persisted in the pistachio supply chain for ≥10 years. Representative isolates of six persistent strains and three sporadic strains isolated from California pistachios were selected to evaluate copper resistance, growth in pistachio hull slurry, biofilm formation, desiccation tolerance, and survival during subsequent storage. The presence of a copper homeostasis and silver resistant island sequence in three of the persistent strains was associated with an increase in tolerance to CuSO4 from 7.5 mM to 15 mM under anaerobic but not aerobic conditions; all isolates were resistant to ≥120 mM Cu-EDTA under both anerobic and aerobic conditions. When inoculated into pistachio hull slurry at 2.75 ± 0.04 log CFU/mL and incubated at 30°C, populations of Salmonella Enteritidis strain A (sporadic) increased to significantly lower levels than the other strains at 16, 20, 24, and 28 h but not at 40 and 48 h. Maximum populations of 8.70-8.85 log CFU/mL were observed for all strains at ≥40 h of incubation. All nine Salmonella strains produced weak to strong biofilms after 4 days at 25°C; seven strains, including two sporadic strains, produced moderate biofilms, and Salmonella Liverpool strain A (persistent) produced a strong biofilm. The rdar+ and rdar- morphotypes were observed in both persistent and sporadic Salmonella strains. Population declines of 5.03 log were observed for Salmonella Enteritidis strain A within 18 h of drying on filter paper while reductions of 0.50-1.25 log were observed for the other eight Salmonella strains. Population reductions (3.98-5.12 log) of these eight strains were not significantly different after storage at 25 ± 1 °C and 35% relative humidity for 50 days. The phenotypic characteristics evaluated here do not independently account for persistence of a small number of Salmonella strains associated with the California pistachio production chain.

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