Study on the risk of arc bacteria for the food industry and human health

The team MikroIkerof the Department of Immunology, Microbiology and Parasitology of the UPV/EHU is carrying out a study on the prevalence and characterization of bacteria of the genus Arcobacterium with a large number of food samples (seafood, vegetables, charcuterie and fresh cheese), some of which have never been analyzed in our environment. In addition, they studied the ability of these bacteria to adhere to different surfaces frequently encountered in food processing environments.

The increase in the discovery of Arcobacterium in food samples of all kinds raises public health concerns, as very little is yet known about the pathogenic potential of the species Arcobacterium; and the few studies that have been done show a large number of host species and transmission routes.

Several species of the genus Arcobacterium they are considered emerging foodborne pathogens and can cause gastrointestinal illness. In order to know the risk associated with the presence of this bacterium in food, “the objective of this work is, on the one hand, to determine the presence of this pathogen in a wide range of products never studied until now; on the other hand, to evaluate the genetic diversity and the presence of virulence genes; and finally, to observe the ability of these pathogens to remain attached to a surface, such as glass, plastic or steel, which are commonly found in food processing materials and environments,” says Irati Martinez. Malax-etxebarria, researcher at the Department of Immunology, Microbiology and Parasitology of the Faculty of Pharmacy of the UPV/EHU.

A total of 220 samples from three major food groups were analyzed: farm animals, marine animals and vegetables. “It was detected Arcobacterium in 22.3% of the samples analyzed and the most abundant species in each of them was A. butzleri, the species most often associated with human diseases, although other species have also appeared”, indicates the UPV/EHU researcher. “We saw that all species had genes associated with virulent capacities, that is, genes that could give the bacterium the ability to cause infections and diseases in humans,” explains Irati Martinez. .

Similarly, “we have observed that baby squid are an important source of Arcobacterium, so the raw consumption of these products could be an important source of infection for humans. We also detected a few cases in a piece of fresh cheese, probably associated with cross-contamination since it was a product bought by the slice”, adds the author of the book. “In the vegetables analyzed ( lettuce, spinach, carrots, chard…) — continues Martinez Malax-etxebarria — the bacteria appeared in all types except chard. Interestingly, all of the lettuce and Swiss chard that tested positive were packaged. a bit to think about, because often when we buy processed foods we do not pay attention to their cleanliness.In addition, in carrots we have detected a species that had never been characterized until now and which also has virulence genes.

In addition, “the results confirm the formation of biofilms by the bacteria Arcobacterium of food origin on various food contact surfaces. Under the conditions in which we carried out our tests, we observed that glass surfaces promote the survival and growth of bacteria,” comments the UPV/EHU researcher.

According to Irati Martinez, “this is the first time that the presence of species of Arcobacterium in fresh Burgos cheese and carrots. Additionally, we report crustaceans, especially squid, as an important source of adherent archobacteria.” “These results should be considered due to their possible implications for food safety, as Burgos cheese is a product ready-to-eat, and carrots and shellfish are frequently eaten undercooked or raw,” adds the UPV/EHU researcher.

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