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Survival of Pathogenic Escherichia Coli on Basil, Lettuce, and Spinach



The contamination of lettuce, spinach and basil with pathogenic E. coli has caused numerous illnesses over the past decade. E. coli O157:H7, E. coli O104:H4 and avian pathogenic E. coli (APECstx- and APECstx+) were inoculated on basil plants and in promix substrate using drip and overhead irrigation. When overhead inoculated with 7 log CFU/ml of each strain, E. coli populations were significantly (= 0.03) higher on overhead-irrigated plants than on drip-irrigated plants. APECstx-, E. coli O104:H4 and APECstx+ populations were recovered on plants at 3.6, 2.3 and 3.1 log CFU/g at 10 dpi (days post-inoculation), respectively. E. coli O157:H7 was not detected on basil after 4 dpi. The persistence of E. coli O157:H7 and APECstx- were similar when co-inoculated on lettuce and spinach plants. On spinach and lettuce, E. coli O157:H7 and APEC populations declined from 5.7 to 6.1 log CFU/g and 4.5 log CFU/g, to undetectable at 3 dpi and 0.6–1.6 log CFU/g at 7 dpi, respectively. The detection of low populations of APEC and E. coli O104:H4 strains 10 dpi indicates these strains may be more adapted to environmental conditions than E. coli O157:H7. This is the first reported study of E. coli O104:H4 on a produce commodity.