Influence of indigenous eukaryotic microbial communities on the reduction of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in compost slurry


  • Editor: Elizabeth Baggs

Correspondence: Edward G. Dudley, Department of Food Science, The Pennsylvania State University, 326 Food Science Building, University Park, PA 16802, USA. Tel.: +1 814 867 0439; fax: +1 814 863 6132;


Compost made from livestock manure is commonly used as a crop fertilizer and serves as a possible vehicle for the transmission of Escherichia coli O157:H7 to fresh produce. In this study, we hypothesized that the indigenous microbial communities present in composts adversely affects the survival of E. coli O157:H7. Escherichia coli O157:H7 was spiked into compost slurry and incubated at 25 °C. Escherichia coli O157:H7 exhibited a c. 4 log10 reduction over 16 days. When compost was supplemented with the eukaryotic inhibitor cycloheximide, there was a minimal decrease in E. coli O157:H7 counts over the same time period. Analysis of microbial communities present in the compost with denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) suggested minor differences in the fungal communities present in cycloheximide-treated compost, compared with untreated compost over a period of 12 days at 25 °C. However, the DGGE profiles of protists showed drastic differences in community complexity. Clone library sequence analysis of protist populations revealed significantly different species composition between treatment and control samples at different time points. This suggests that predation of E. coli O157:H7 by protists might be a potential mechanism for reducing E. coli O157:H7 in compost materials.