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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11(10), 10105-10124;

Enteric Pathogen Survival Varies Substantially in Irrigation Water from Belgian Lettuce Producers

Crop Protection—Plant Sciences Unit—Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research (ILVO), Burgemeester Van Gansberghelaan 96, B-9820 Merelbeke, Belgium
Food Safety—Technology and Food Science Unit, Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research (ILVO), Brusselsesteenweg 370, B-9090 Melle, Belgium
Laboratory of Food Microbiology and Food Preservation, Department of Food Safety and Food Quality, Ghent University, Coupure Links 653, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium
Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, Department of Pathology, Bacteriology and Poultry Diseases, Ghent University, Salisburylaan 133, B-9820 Merelbeke, Belgium
Laboratory of Microbiology, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, Faculty of Sciences, Ghent University, K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 2 July 2014 / Revised: 18 September 2014 / Accepted: 19 September 2014 / Published: 29 September 2014
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It is accepted that irrigation water is a potential carrier of enteric pathogens, such as Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 and, therefore, a source for contamination of fresh produce. We tested this by comparing irrigation water samples taken from five different greenhouses in Belgium. The water samples were inoculated with four zoonotic strains, two Salmonella and two E. coli O157:H7 strains, and pathogen survival and growth in the water were monitored up till 14 days. The influence of water temperature and chemical water quality was evaluated, and the survival tests were also performed in water samples from which the resident aquatic microbiota had previously been eliminated by filter sterilization. The pathogen’s survival differed greatly in the different irrigation waters. Three water samples contained nutrients to support important growth of the pathogens, and another enabled weaker growth. However, for all, growth was only observed in the samples that did not contain the resident aquatic microbiota. In the original waters with their specific water biota, pathogen levels declined. The same survival tendencies existed in water of 4 °C and 20 °C, although always more expressed at 20 °C. Low water temperatures resulted in longer pathogen survival. Remarkably, the survival capacity of two E. coli 0157:H7 strains differed, while Salmonella Thompson and Salmonella Typhimurium behaved similarly. The pathogens were also transferred to detached lettuce leaves, while suspended in two of the water samples or in a buffer. The effect of the water sample on the pathogen’s fitness was also reproduced on the leaves when stored at 100% relative humidity. Inoculation of the suspension in buffer or in one of the water samples enabled epiphytic growth and survival, while the pathogen level in the other water sample decreased once loaded on the leaves. Our results show that irrigation waters from different origin may have a different capacity to transmit enteric pathogens and an important impact on the fitness of the pathogens to sustain and even grow on the leaf surface. View Full-Text
Keywords: Escherichia coli O157:H7; Salmonella; enteric pathogens; irrigation water; lettuce; fresh produce Escherichia coli O157:H7; Salmonella; enteric pathogens; irrigation water; lettuce; fresh produce

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Van Der Linden, I.; Cottyn, B.; Uyttendaele, M.; Berkvens, N.; Vlaemynck, G.; Heyndrickx, M.; Maes, M. Enteric Pathogen Survival Varies Substantially in Irrigation Water from Belgian Lettuce Producers. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11, 10105-10124.

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