Date of this Version
Journal of Food Protection, Vol. 76, No. 9, 2013, Pages 1513–1522
Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium are important foodborne pathogens capable of forming single-species biofilms or coexisting in multispecies biofilm communities. Bacterial biofilm cells are usually more resistant to sanitization than their planktonic counterparts, so these foodborne pathogens in biofilms pose a serious food safety concern. We investigated how the coexistence of E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella Typhimurium strains would affect bacterial planktonic growth competition and mixed biofilm composition. Furthermore, we also investigated how mixed biofilm formation would affect bacterial resistance to common sanitizers. Salmonella Typhimurium strains were able to outcompete E. coli strains in the planktonic growth phase; however, mixed biofilm development was highly dependent upon companion strain properties in terms of the expression of bacterial extracellular polymeric substances (EPS), including curli fimbriae and exopolysaccharide cellulose. The EPS-producing strains with higher biofilm-forming abilities were able to establish themselves in mixed biofilms more efficiently. In comparison to single-strain biofilms, Salmonella or E. coli strains with negative EPS expression obtained significantly enhanced resistance to sanitization by forming mixed biofilms with an EPS-producing companion strain of the other species. These observations indicate that the bacterial EPS components not only enhance the sanitizer resistance of the EPS-producing strains but also render protections to their companion strains, regardless of species, in mixed biofilms. Our study highlights the potential risk of cross-contamination by multispecies biofilms in food safety and the need for increased attention to proper sanitization practices in food processing facilities.