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Salmonella Interactions with Plants and Their Associated Microbiota

April 2013 , Volume 103 , Number  4
Pages  316 - 325

Maria T. Brandl, Clayton E. Cox, and Max Teplitski

First author: Produce Safety and Microbiology Research Unit, Agriculture Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Albany, CA 94563; and second and third authors: Soil and Water Science Department, Genetics Institute, University of Florida-IFAS, Gainesville, FL.

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Accepted for publication 8 January 2013.

The increase in the incidence of gastroenteritis outbreaks linked to the consumption of foods of plant origin has ignited public concern and scientific interest in understanding interactions of human enteric pathogens with plants. Enteric disease caused by nontyphoidal Salmonella is a major public health burden, with the number of cases of illness linked to fresh produce, spices, and nuts surpassing those linked to foods of animal origin. Mounting evidence supports the hypothesis that colonization of plants is an important part of the life cycle of this human pathogen. Although plant responses to human pathogens are distinct from the more specific responses to phytopathogens, plants appear to recognize Salmonella, likely by detecting conserved microbial patterns, which subsequently activates basal defenses. Numerous Salmonella genes have been identified as playing a role in its colonization of plant surfaces and tissues, and in its various interactions with other members of the phyto-microbial community. Importantly, Salmonella utilizes diverse and overlapping strategies to interact with plants and their microflora, and to successfully colonize its vertebrate hosts. This review provides insight into the complex behavior of Salmonella on plants and the apparent remarkable adaptation of this human pathogen to a potentially secondary host.

Additional keywords: foodborne pathogen, fruit, vegetable, phyllosphere, rhizosphere, enteric illness, microbe–microbe interactions.

© 2013 The American Phytopathological Society