Bias in the Listeria monocytogenes enrichment procedure: Lineage 2 strains outcompete lineage 1 strains in University of Vermont selective enrichments

Jesper Bartholin Bruhn, Birte Fonnesbech Vogel, Lone Gram

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Listeria monocytogenes can be isolated from a range of food products and may cause food-borne outbreaks or sporadic cases of listeriosis. L. monocytogenes is divided into three genetic lineages and 13 serotypes. Strains of three serotypes (1/2a, 1/2b, and 4b) are associated with most human cases of listeriosis. Of these, strains of serotypes 1/2b and 4b belong to lineage 1, whereas strains of serotype 1/2a and many other strains isolated from foods belong to lineage 2. L. monocytogenes is isolated from foods by selective enrichment procedures and from patients by nonselective methods. The aim of the present study was to investigate if the selective enrichment procedure results in a true representation of the subtypes of L. monocytogenes present in a sample. Eight L. monocytogenes strains (four lineage 1 strains and four lineage 2 strains) and one Listeria innocua strain grew with identical growth rates in the nonselective medium brain heart infusion (BHI), but differed in their growth rate in the selective medium University of Vermont medium I (UVM I). When coinoculated in UVM I, some strains completely outgrew other strains. This outcome was dependent on the lineage of L. monocytogenes rather than the individual growth rate of the strains. When inoculated at identical cell densities in UVM I, L. innocua outcompeted L. monocytogenes lineage 1 strains but not lineage 2 strains. In addition, lineage 2 L. monocytogenes strains outcompeted lineage 1 L. monocytogenes strains in all combinations tested, indicating a bias in strains selected by the enrichment procedures. Bias also occurred when coinoculating two lineage 2 or lineage 1 strains; however, it did not appear to correlate with origin (clinical versus food). Identical coinoculation experiments in BHI suggested that the selective compounds in UVM I and II influenced this bias. The results of the present study demonstrate that the selective procedures used for isolation of L. monocytogenes may not allow a true representation of the types present in foods. Our results could have a significant impact on epidemiological studies, as lineage 1 strains, which are often isolated from clinical cases of listeriosis, may be suppressed during enrichment by other L. monocytogenes lineages present in a food sample
Original languageEnglish
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)961-967
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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