Impact of Pathogen Population Heterogeneity and Stress-Resistant Variants on Food Safety

T. Abee*, J. Koomen, K.I. Metselaar, M.H. Zwietering, H.M.W. Den Besten

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


This review elucidates the state-of-the-art knowledge about pathogen population heterogeneity and describes the genotypic and phenotypic analyses of persister subpopulations and stress-resistant variants. The molecular mechanisms underlying the generation of persister phenotypes and genetic variants are identified. Zooming in on Listeria monocytogenes, a comparative whole-genome sequence analysis of wild types and variants that enabled the identification of mutations in variants obtained after a single exposure to lethal food-relevant stresses is described. Genotypic and phenotypic features are compared to those for persistent strains isolated from food processing environments. Inactivation kinetics, models used for fitting, and the concept of kinetic modeling-based schemes for detection of variants are presented. Furthermore, robustness and fitness parameters of L. monocytogenes wild type and variants are used to model their performance in food chains. Finally, the impact of stress-resistant variants and persistence in food processing environments on food safety is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)439-456
JournalAnnual Review of Food Science and Technology
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2016


  • Food processing
  • Growth kinetics
  • Listeria monocytogenes
  • Systems biology


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