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Investigate the bacterial stress response.

Scientists at University College Cork (Department of Food Science and Technology, County Cork, Ireland) are demonstrating that bacteria can be extremely sensitive to their environment and can respond to different stresses in ways that are logical to them. Investigators are examining the precise, complex mechanisms by which bacteria sense and react to stress. They hope to provide processors with the information required to overcome bacteria's ability to react to stress.

For example, when L. monocytogenes encounters stress, such as a mildly-acidic environment, it will respond by becoming resistant to normally lethal levels of acid, such as those found in the stomach. This increases the possibility of active Listeria surviving passage through the stomach and arriving in the gut, the site of infection.

Bacteria are constantly sampling their environment and responding to any threat by switching on defense mechanisms. These help the bacteria overcome adverse conditions and sometimes normal body defense mechanisms

In an important finding, the research team demonstrated that when a normally virulent strain of Listeria was mutated so that it could no longer adapt to mild stresses, it became harmless. So the ability of the bacterium to sense and respond to its environment plays an essential role in its ability to cause disease.

In general, food safety research at the university involves developing methods that can identify, characterize and quantify foodborne viruses, rapid tests for the detection of mycotoxigenic fungi in food, the screening of foods for the presence of pathogens and development of advanced sensor systems for near-real-time analysis of food quality. Scientists also are looking into using bacteriocins as alternatives to chemical preservatives and are examining the ability of nitrite to control pathogens in meat products.

Further information. Colin Hill; phone: +353 21 903363; fax: +353 21 276398; URL:
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Publication:Microbial Update International
Date:Aug 1, 1999
Previous Article:High-pressure research ongoing.
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