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Detection of Arcobacter and Helicobacter pylori Contamination in Organic Vegetables by Cultural and PCR Methods

Authors: Miguel García-Ferrús, Ana González, María A. Ferrús


The most demanded organic foods worldwide are those that are consumed fresh, such as fruits and vegetables. However, there is a knowledge gap about some aspects of organic food microbiological quality and safety. Organic fruits and vegetables are more exposed to pathogenic microorganisms due to surface contact with natural fertilizers such as animal manure, wastes and vermicompost used during farming. Therefore, the objective of this work was to study the contamination of organic fresh green leafy vegetables by two emergent pathogens, Arcobacter spp. and Helicobacter pylori. For this purpose, a total of 24 vegetable samples, 13 lettuce and 11 spinach were acquired from 10 different ecological supermarkets and greengroceries and analyzed by culture and PCR. Arcobacter spp. was detected in five samples (20%) by PCR, four spinach and one lettuce. One spinach sample was found to be also positive by culture. For H. pylori, the H. pylori VacA gene-specific band was detected in 12 vegetable samples (50%), 10 lettuces and two spinach. Isolation in the selective medium did not yield any positive result, possibly because of low contamination levels together with the presence of the organism in its viable but non-culturable form. Results showed significant levels of H. pylori and Arcobacter contamination in organic vegetables that are generally consumed raw, which seems to confirm that these foods can act as transmission vehicles to humans.

Keywords: Arcobacter spp., Helicobacter pylori, organic vegetables, Polymerase Chain Reaction, PCR.

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