Similar to phytopathogens, human bacterial pathogens have been shown to colonize the plant phylloplane. In addition to environmental factors, such as temperature, UV, relative humidity, etc., the plant cultivar and, specifically, the leaf blade morphological characteristics may affect the persistence of enteropathogens on leafy greens. This study was conducted to evaluate the effect of cultivar-dependent leaf topography and the role of strain phenotypic characteristics on Escherichia coli O157:H7 persistence on organic spinach. Spinach cultivars Emilia, Lazio, Space, and Waitiki were experimentally inoculated with the foodborne E. Coli O157:H7 isolate EDL933 and its isogenic mutants deficient in cellulose, curli, or both curli and cellulose production. Leaves of 6-week-old plants were inoculated with 6.5 log CFU per leaf in a biosafety level 2 growth chamber. At 0, 1, 7, and 14 days, E. Coli O157:H7 populations were determined by plating on selective medium and verified by laser scanning confocal microscopy. Leaf morphology (blade roughness and stoma density) was evaluated by low-temperature and variable-pressure scanning electron microscopy. E. Coli O157:H7 persistence on spinach was significantly affected by cultivar and strain phenotypic characteristics, specifically, the expression of curli. Leaf blade roughness and stoma density influenced the persistence of E. Coli O157:H7 on spinach. Cultivar Waitiki, which had the greatest leaf roughness, supported significantly higher E. Coli O157:H7 populations than the other cultivars. These two morphological characteristics of spinach cultivars should be taken into consideration in developing intervention strategies to enhance the microbial safety of leafy greens.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Food Science