The MikroIker team from the Department of Immunology, Microbiology and Parasitology of the UPV/EHU conducted a study on the prevalence and characterization of bacteria of the genus Arcobacter from a large number of different food samples (seafood , vegetables, cold meats and fresh cheese), including some that have never been analyzed in our environment before. Additionally, they investigated the ability of these bacteria to adhere to various surfaces frequently encountered in food processing environments.
The increase in the finding of Arcobacter in food samples of all types raises public health concerns, as very little is still known about the pathogenic potential of Arcobacter species, and the few studies that have been conducted show a large number of host species and transmission routes.
Several species of the genus Arcobacter are considered emerging foodborne pathogens and can cause gastrointestinal disturbances. In order to know the risk associated with the presence of this bacterium in food, “the objective of this work is, on the one hand, to establish the presence of this pathogen in a wide range of products never before studied; on the other hand, to evaluate the genetic diversity and the presence of virulence genes; and finally, to observe the ability of these pathogens to remain attached to a surface, such as glass, plastic or steel, which are commonly found in food processing materials and environments,” said Irati Martinez-Malaxetxebarria, researcher in the Department of Immunology. , Microbiology and Parasitology from the Faculty of Pharmacy of the UPV/EHU.
A total of 220 samples were analyzed in three main food groups: farm animals, marine animals and vegetables. “Arcobacter were detected in 22.3% of the samples analyzed and the most abundant species in all of them was A. butzleri, the one most often associated with human disorders, although other species are also appeared,” said the UPV/EHU researcher. “We saw that all species had genes associated with virulent capacities, that is, genes that could give the bacterium the ability to cause infections and disorders in humans,” explains Irati Martinez. .
Additionally, “we have observed that baby squid are a major source of Arcobacter, so eating these products raw could be an important source of infection for humans. We have also detected cases in a piece of fresh cheese, probably associated with cross-contamination, since it was a product purchased in delicatessens,” added the author of the article. “In the vegetables analyzed (lettuce, spinach, carrots, Swiss chard, etc.) continues Martinez Malaxetxebarria, “The bacteria appeared in all types except Swiss chard. Interestingly, all the lettuce and Swiss chard that tested positive were pre-packaged. It makes you think a little, because often when you buy processed foods you don’t pay attention to how clean they are. We also detected a species in carrots that had never been characterized before and that also has virulence genes.”
In addition, “the results confirm the formation of biofilms caused by foodborne Arcobacter bacteria on different food contact surfaces. Under the conditions in which we carried out our tests, we observed that the glazed surfaces promote the survival and growth of bacteria”, specifies the UPV/EHU researcher.
According to Irati Martinez, “this is the first time that the presence of the Arcobacter species in fresh Burgos cheese and carrots has been reported. We have also noted seafood, especially squid, as an important source of adherent Arcobacter”. “These findings should be considered for their possible food safety implications, as Burgos cheese is a ready-to-eat product, and carrots and seafood are often eaten only lightly cooked or raw,” added the UPV/EHU researcher.
Reference: Martinez-Malaxetxebarria I, Girbau C, Salazar-Sánchez A, et al. Genetic characterization and biofilm formation of potentially pathogenic foodborne Arcobacter isolates. Int J Food Microbiol. 2022;373:109712. do I:10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2022.109712
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