In this news, we discuss the Breakthrough in understanding seafood poisoning bacteria.
Scientists have observed that bacteria that poison seafood can go dormant under poor growing conditions such as cold temperatures – and can remain in that state of hibernation for long periods of time before resuscitating.
Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a marine bacteria that can cause gastroenteritis in humans when consumed in raw or undercooked crustaceans such as oysters and mussels. This bacteria generally responsible for stomach aches linked to seafood can go dormant and then “wake up”
This study could explain how Vibrio parahaemolyticus can reappear in the environment during the summer. However, they are destroyed when properly cooked, according to the researchers.
Scientists at the University of Exeter have identified a population of these sleeper cells that wake up better and have discovered an enzyme involved in this wake-up process.
“Most of these bacteria die off when they encounter poor growing conditions, but we have identified subpopulations of bacteria that are able to remain dormant for long periods of time,” said lead author Dr Sariqa Wagley of the University of Exeter.
“We have found that this population has a better ability to revive when conditions improve.
“Our tests show that when these dormant bacteria are reactivated, they are just as virulent and capable of causing disease.”
The findings could have implications for seafood safety, as sleeper cells are not detectable using routine microbiological screening tests and the actual bacterial load (amount of bacteria) could be underestimated.
“When they go dormant, these bacteria change shape, reduce respiratory activities, and don’t grow like healthy bacteria on agar plates used in standard lab tests, so they’re much more difficult to detect,” explained Dr Wagley.
“Using a range of tools, we were able to find dormant bacteria in seafood samples and lab cultures and examine their genetic content for clues as to how they might survive for long periods of time.
“It is important to note that careful cooking kills bacteria present in seafood.
“Our results can also help us predict the conditions dormant bacteria need to regenerate.”
Working with the seafood industry, the Exeter team identified a lactate dehydrogenase enzyme that breaks down lactic acid into pyruvate, a key component of several metabolic pathways (chemical reactions in a cell).
The results suggest that lactate dehydrogenase is essential both for maintaining bacterial dormancy and for resuscitation to an active form.
Vibrio parahaemolyticus typically grows in warm, tropical marine environments, although Dr Wagley has said that due to rising sea temperatures in recent years it is now prevalent in UK waters during the summer months.
During the winter, it is not detected in the marine environment and is believed to die due to the cold winter temperatures.
News Strong points:
Breakthrough in understanding seafood poisoning bacteria
Marine bacteria can hibernate for long periods of time
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