Influence of sublethal concentrations of common disinfectants on expression of virulence genes in Listeria monocytogenes

Vicky Gaedt Kastbjerg, M. H. Larsen, Lone Gram, H. Ingmer

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Listeria monocytogenes is a food-borne human pathogen that causes listeriosis, a relatively rare infection with a high fatality rate. The regulation of virulence gene expression is influenced by several environmental factors, and the aim of the present study was to determine how disinfectants used routinely in the food industry affect the expression of different virulence genes in L. monocytogenes when added at sublethal concentrations. An agar-based assay was developed to screen the effect of disinfectants on virulence gene promoter expression and was validated at the transcriptional level by Northern blot analysis. Eleven disinfectants representing four different groups of active components were evaluated in this study. Disinfectants with the same active ingredients had a similar effect on gene expression. Peroxy and chlorine compounds reduced the expression of the virulence genes, and quaternary ammonium compounds (QAC) induced the expression of the virulence genes. In general, a disinfectant had similar effects on the expression of all four virulence genes examined. Northern blot analyses confirmed the downregulation of prfA and inlA expression by Incimaxx DES (a peroxy compound) and their upregulation by Triquart Super (a QAC) in L. monocytogenes EGD. Hence, sublethal concentrations of disinfectants routinely used in the food industry affect virulence gene expression in the human pathogen L. monocytogenes, and the effect depends on the active components of the disinfectant. From a practical perspective, the study underlines that disinfectants should be used at the lethal concentrations recommended by the manufacturers. Further studies are needed to elucidate whether the changes in virulence gene expression induced by the disinfectants have impact on virulence or other biological properties, such as antibiotic resistance.
Original languageEnglish
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)303-309
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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