• Bacillus cereus;
  • Food poisoning;
  • Emetic toxin;
  • (HEp-2 cell assay)

Abstract When grown for 15 h in rice culture, 13 out of 15 Bacillus cereus strains associated with emetic-syndrome food poisoning (87%) caused vacuoles to appear in HEp-2 cells, compared with 5 out of 11 B. cereus strains from other sources (45%). No other Bacillus species tested gave rise to this response under these conditions. Six out of eight rice samples involved in incidents of B. cereus emetic illness produced vacuoles in HEp-2 cells, whereas control rice samples and foods from vomiting episodes caused by other Bacillus spp. failed to do so. This vacuole response may have application as a simple in vitro assay for organisms and foods implicated in B. cereus emetic-syndrome food poisoning.