Lactic Acid Resistance and Population Structure of Escherichia coli from Meat Processing Environment

Citation

Yuan, F., Kim, S., Xianqin, Y. (2022). Lactic Acid Resistance and Population Structure of Escherichia coli from Meat Processing Environment. Microbiology Spectrum, [online] 10(5), http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/spectrum.01352-22

Plain language summary

This study explored the links among acid response, phylogenetic structure, genome diversity, and genotypes associated with acid resistance of meat plant E. coli. No increase in acid resistance was observed for E. coli populations recovered before and after a processing step or antimicrobial interventions. The pre-intervention carcass-associated E. coli were slightly more resistant than equipment-associated E. coli, differing by <0.5 log unit. Overall, beef processing did not select for acid-resistant E. coli but shaped the population structure. Antimicrobial interventions have significantly reduced the microbial loads on carcasses/meat products; however, the wide use of chemical and physical biocides has raised concerns over their potential for selecting resistant populations in the beef processing environment. Phenotyping of acid resistance and whole-genome analysis described in this study demonstrated beef processing practices led to variations in acid resistance, genotype, and population structure between carcass- and equipment-associated E. coli but did not select for the acid-resistant population. Results indicate that genes coding for the metabolism of long-chain sugar acids (ydj) and short-chain fatty acids (ato) were more prevalent in carcass-associated than equipment-associated E. coli. These results suggest E. coli from carcasses and equipment surfaces have been driven by different evolution forces.

Abstract

To explore the effect of beef processing on Escherichia coli populations in relation to lactic acid resistance, this study investigated the links among acid response, phylogenetic structure, genome diversity, and genotypes associated with acid resistance of meat plant E. coli. Generic E. coli isolates (n = 700) were from carcasses, fabrication equipment, and beef products. Acid treatment was carried out in Luria-Bertani broth containing 5.5% lactic acid (pH 2.9). Log reductions of E. coli ranged from,0.5 to .5 log CFU/mL (median: 1.37 log). No difference in lactic acid resistance was observed between E. coli populations recovered before and after a processing step or antimicrobial interventions. E. coli from the preintervention carcasses were slightly more resistant than E. coli isolated from equipment, differing by,0.5 log unit. Acid-resistant E. coli (log reduction,1, n = 45) had a higher prevalence of genes related to energy metabolism (ydj, xap, ato) and oxidative stress (fec, ymjC) than the less resistant E. coli (log reduction .1, n = 133). The ydj and ato operons were abundant in E. coli from preintervention carcasses. In contrast, fec genes were abundant in E. coli from equipment surfaces. The preintervention E. coli contained phylogroups A and B1 in relatively equal proportions. Phylogroup B1 predominated (95%) in the population from equipment. Of note, E. coli collected after sanitation shared either the antigens of O8 or H21. Additionally, genome diversity decreased after chilling and equipment sanitation. Overall, beef processing did not select for E. coli resistant to lactic acid but shaped the population structure. IMPORTANCE Antimicrobial interventions have significantly reduced the microbial loads on carcasses/meat products; however, the wide use of chemical and physical biocides has raised concerns over their potential for selecting resistant populations in the beef processing environment. Phenotyping of acid resistance and whole-genome analysis described in this study demonstrated beef processing practices led to differences in acid resistance, genotype, and population structure between carcass- and equipment-associated E. coli but did not select for the acid-resistant population. Results indicate that genes coding for the metabolism of long-chain sugar acids (ydj) and short-chain fatty acids (ato) were more prevalent in carcass-associated than equipment-associated E. coli. These results suggest E. coli from carcasses and equipment surfaces have been exposed to different selective pressures. The findings improve our understanding of the microbial ecology of E. coli in food processing environments and in general.

Publication date

2022-09-01

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