Flow cytometry for rapid detection of Salmonella spp. in seed sprouts

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Bisha, Bledar
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Brehm-Stecher, Byron
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Seed sprouts (alfalfa, mung bean, radish, etc.) have been implicated in several recent national and international outbreaks of salmonellosis. Conditions used for sprouting are also conducive to the growth of Salmonella. As a result, this pathogen can quickly grow to very high cell densities during sprouting without any detectable organoleptic impact. Seed sprouts typically also support heavy growth (~108 CFU g−1) of a heterogeneous microbiota consisting of various bacterial, yeast, and mold species, often dominated by non-pathogenic members of the family Enterobacteriaceae. This heavy background may present challenges to the detection of Salmonella, especially if this pathogen is present in relatively low numbers. We combined DNA-based fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) with flow cytometry (FCM) for the rapid molecular detection of Salmonella enterica ser. Typhimurium in artificially contaminated alfalfa and other seed sprouts. Components of the assay included a set of cooperatively binding probes, a chemical blocking treatment intended to reduce non-specific background, and sample concentration via tangential flow filtration (TFF). We were able to detect S. Typhimurium in sprout wash at levels as low as 103 CFU ml−1 sprout wash (104 CFU g−1 sprouts) against high microbial backgrounds (~108 CFU g−1 sprouts). Hybridization times were typically 30 min, with additional washing, but we ultimately found that S. Typhimurium could be readily detected using hybridization times as short as 2 min, without a wash step. These results clearly demonstrate the potential of combined DNA-FISH and FCM for rapid detection of Salmonella in this challenging food matrix and provide industry with a useful tool for compliance with sprout production standards proposed in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).


This article is published as Bisha, B. and Brehm-Stecher, B.F. Flow cytometry for rapid detection of Salmonella spp. In seed sprouts. ScienceOpen Research: doi: 10.14293/S2199-1006.1.SORLIFE.AJ19WR.v1 (2014). Posted with permission.

Wed Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2014