Date of this Version
Food Control 89 (2018) 250-259
Fresh produce is increasingly implicated in foodborne outbreaks and most fresh produce is consumed raw, emphasizing the need to develop non-thermal methods to control foodborne pathogens. This study investigates bacterial cell lysis through induction of prophages as a novel approach to control foodborne bacterial pathogens on fresh produce. Shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC) and Salmonella enterica isolates were exposed to different prophage inducers (i.e. mitomycin C or streptonigrin) and growth of the cells was monitored by measuring the optical density (OD600) during incubation at 37C. Beginning at three hours after addition of the inducer, all concentrations (0.5, 1, 2 mg/mL) of mitomycin C, or 2 mg/mL streptonigrin significantly reduced the OD600 in broth cultures, in a concentration dependent manner, relative to cultures where no inducer was added. PCR confirmed bacterial release of induced bacteriophages and demonstrated that a single compound could successfully induce multiple types of prophages. The ability of mitomycin C to induce prophages in STEC O157:H7 and in S. enterica (serovars Typhimurium and Newport) on fresh produce was evaluated by inoculating red greenhouse tomatoes or spinach leaves with 5 x 107 and 5 x 108 colony forming units, respectively. After allowing time for the inoculum to dry on the fresh produce samples, 6 mg/mL mitomycin C was sprayed onto each sample, while control samples were sprayed with water. Following overnight incubation at 4C, the bacterial cells were recovered and plate counts were performed. A 3 log reduction in STEC O157:H7 cells was observed on tomatoes sprayed with mitomycin C compared to those sprayed with water, while a 1 log reduction was obtained on spinach. Similarly, spraying mitomycin C on tomatoes and spinach inoculated with S. enterica isolates resulted in a 1-1.5 log and 2 log reduction, respectively. These findings serve as a proof of concept that prophage induction can effectively control bacterial foodborne pathogens on fresh produce.