Transmission of escherichia coli from manure to root zones of field-grown lettuce and leek plants

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Pathogenic Escherichia coli strains are responsible for food-borne disease outbreaks upon consumption of fresh vegetables and fruits. The aim of this study was to establish the transmission route of E. coli strain 0611, as proxy for human pathogenic E. coli, via manure, soil and plant root zones to the above-soil plant compartments. The ecological behavior of the introduced strain was established by making use of a combination of cultivation-based and molecular targeted and untargeted approaches. Strain 0611 CFUs and specific molecular targets were detected in the root zones of lettuce and leek plants, even up to 272 days after planting in the case of leek plants. However, no strain 0611 colonies were detected in leek leaves, and only in one occasion a single colony was found in lettuce leaves. Therefore, it was concluded that transmission of E. coli via manure is not the principal contamination route to the edible parts of both plant species grown under field conditions in this study. Strain 0611 was shown to accumulate in root zones of both species and metagenomic reads of this strain were retrieved from the lettuce rhizosphere soil metagenome library at a level of Log 4.11 CFU per g dry soil.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2289
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 3 Nov 2021


  • Escherichia coli
  • Food safety
  • Manure
  • Metagenome
  • Plants
  • Polyphasic detection
  • Transmission


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