Development of molecular-based techniques for the detection, identification and quantification of food-borne pathogens

  1. Rodríguez Lázaro, David
Supervised by:
  1. Maria Pla de Solà-Morales Director

Defence university: Universitat de Girona

Fecha de defensa: 30 September 2004

  1. Pere Puigdomènech Rosell Chair
  2. Emilio Montesinos Seguí Secretary
  3. Nigel Cook Committee member
  4. José Antonio Vázquez Boland Committee member
  5. Marta Hugas Maurici Committee member

Type: Thesis

Teseo: 106826 DIALNET lock_openTDX editor


The presence of pathogens in foods is among the most serious public health concerns, and the diseases produced by them are a major cause of morbidity. Consequently, the application of microbiological control within the quality assessment programs in the food industry is a premise to minimize the risk of infection for the consumer. Classical microbiological methods involve, in general, the use of a non-selective pre-enrichment, selective enrichment, isolation on selective media, and subsequent confirmation using morphological, biochemical and/or serological tests. Thus, they are laborious, time consuming and not always reliable (e.g. in viable but non-culturable VBNC forms). A number of alternative, rapid and sensitive methods for the detection, identification and quantification of foodborne pathogens have been developed to overcome these drawbacks. PCR has become the most popular microbiological diagnostic method, and recently, the introduction of a development of this technique, RTi-PCR, has produced a second revolution in the molecular diagnostic methodology in microbiology. RTi-PCR is highly sensitive and specific. Moreover, it allows accurate quantification of the bacterial target DNA. Main advantages of RTi-PCR for its application in diagnostic laboratories include quickness, simplicity, the closed-tube format that avoids risks of carryover contaminations and the possibility of high throughput and automation. In this work, specific, sensitive and reliable analytical methods based on molecular techniques (PCR and NASBA) were developed for the detection, identification and quantification of foodborne pathogens (Listeria spp., Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis and Salmonella spp.). Real-time PCR based methods were designed and optimised for each one of these target bacteria: L. monocytogenes, L. innocua, Listeria spp. M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis, and also a real-time PCR based method previously described for Salmonella spp. was optimised and multicenter evaluated. In addition, an NASBA-based method was designed and optimised for the specific detection of M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis. The potential application of the NASBA technique for specific detection of viable M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis cells was also evaluated. All the amplification-based methods were 100 % specific and the sensitivity achieved proved to be fully suitable for further application in real food samples. Furthermore, specific pre-amplification procedures were developed and evaluated on meat products, seafood products, milk and water samples. Thus, fully specific and highly sensitive real-time PCR-based methods were developed for quantitative detection of L. monocytogenes on meat and meat products and on salmon and cold smoked salmon products; and for quantitative detection of M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis on water and milk samples. The M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis-specific real-time PCR-based method was also applied to evaluate the presence of this bacterium in the bowel of Crohns disease patients using colonic biopsy specimens form affected and unaffected volunteers. In addition, fully specific and highly sensitive real-time NASBA-based methods were developed for detection of M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis on water and milk samples. In conclusion, this study reports selective and sensitive amplification-based assays for the quantitative detection of foodborne pathogens (Listeria spp., Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis and) and for a quick and unambiguously identification of Salmonella spp. The assays had an excellent relative accuracy compared to microbiological reference methods and can be used for quantification of genomic DNA and also cell suspensions. Besides, in combination with sample pre-amplification treatments, they work with high efficiency for the quantitative analysis of the target bacteria. Thus, they could be a useful strategy for a quick and sensitive detection of foodborne pathogens in food products and which should be a useful addition to the range of diagnostic tools available for the study of these pathogens.