Unraveling the emergence and population diversity of Listeria monocytogenes in a newly built meat facility through whole genome sequencing
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International Journal of Food Microbiology
The food processing environments of a newly opened meat processing facility were sampled in ten visits carried out during its first 1.5 years of activity and analyzed for the presence of Listeria monocytogenes. A total of 18 L. monocytogenes isolates were obtained from 229 samples, and their genomes were sequenced to perform comparative genomic analyses. An increase in the frequency of isolation of L. monocytogenes and in the diversity of sequence types (STs) detected was observed along time. Although the strains isolated belonged to six different STs (ST8, ST9, ST14, ST37, ST121 and ST155), ST9 was the most abundant (8 out of 18 strains). Low (0 and 2) single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) distances were found between two pairs of ST9 strains isolated in both cases 3 months apart from the same processing room (Lm-1267 and Lm-1705, with a 2 SNPs distance in the core genome; Lm-1265 and Lm-1706, with a 0 SNPs distance), which suggests that these strains may be persistent L. monocytogenes strains in the food processing environment. Most strains showed an in silico attenuated viru lence potential either through the truncation of InlA (in 67% of the isolates) or the absence of other virulence factors involved in cell adhesion or invasion. Twelve of the eighteen L. monocytogenes isolates contained a plasmid, which ranged in size from 4 to 87 Kb and harbored stress survival, in addition to heavy metals and biocides resistance determinants. Identical or highly similar plasmids were identified for various sets of L. monocytogenes ST9 isolates, which suggests the clonal expansion and persistence of plasmid-containing ST9 strains in the processing environments of the meat facility. Finally, the analysis of the L. monocytogenes genomes available in the NCBI database, and their associated metadata, evidenced that strains from ST9 are more frequently reported in Europe, linked to foods, particularly to meat and pork products, and less represented among clinical isolates than other L. monocytogenes STs. It also showed that the ST9 strains here isolated were more closely related to the European isolates, which clustered together and separated from ST9 North American isolates.
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