Contamination of mussels with the human pathogen Listeria monocytogenes occurs during processing in the factory, possibly from bacteria persisting in the factory's indoor and outdoor areas. In this study, a selection of persistent (n = 8) and sporadic (n = 8) L. monocytogenes isolates associated with mussel-processing premises in New Zealand were investigated for their phenotypic and genomic characteristics. To identify traits that favour or contribute to bacterial persistence, biofilm formation, heat resistance, motility and recovery from dry surfaces were compared between persistent and sporadic isolates. All isolates exhibited low biofilm formation at 20 °C, however, at 30 °C persistent isolates showed significantly higher biofilm formation after 48 h using cell enumeration and near significant difference using the crystal violet assay. All 16 isolates were motile at 20 °C and 30 °C and motility was fractionally higher for sporadic isolates, but no significant difference was observed. We found persistent isolates tend to exhibit greater recovery after incubation on dry surfaces compared to sporadic isolates. Two of the three most heat-resistant isolates were persistent, while four of five isolates lacking heat resistance were sporadic isolates. Comparison of genome sequences of persistent and sporadic isolates showed that there was no overall clustering of persistent or sporadic isolates, and that differences in prophages and plasmids were not associated with persistence. Our results suggest a link between persistence and biofilm formation, which is most likely multifactorial, combining subtle phenotypic and genotypic differences between isolates.
- Heat resistance
- L. monocytogenes