Listeria monocytogenes is a food-borne pathogen responsible for the potentially fatal disease listeriosis and terrestrial ecosystems have been hypothesized to be its natural reservoir. Therefore, identifying the key edaphic factors that influence its survival in soil is critical. We measured the survival of L. monocytogenes in a set of 100 soil samples belonging to the French Soil Quality Monitoring Network. This soil collection is meant to be representative of the pedology and land use of the whole French territory. The population of L. monocytogenes in inoculated microcosms was enumerated by plate count after 7, 14 and 84 days of incubation. Analysis of survival profiles showed that L. monocytogenes was able to survive up to 84 days in 71% of the soils tested, in the other soils (29%) only a short-term survival (up to 7 to 14 days) was observed. Using variance partitioning techniques, we showed that about 65% of the short-term survival ratio of L. monocytogenes in soils was explained by the soil chemical properties, amongst which the basic cation saturation ratio seems to be the main driver. On the other hand, while explaining a lower amount of survival ratio variance (11%), soil texture and especially clay content was the main driver of long-term survival of L. monocytogenes in soils. In order to assess the effect of the endogenous soils microbiota on L. monocytogenes survival, sterilized versus non-sterilized soils microcosms were compared in a subset of 9 soils. We found that the endogenous soil microbiota could limit L. monocytogenes survival especially when soil pH was greater than 7, whereas in acidic soils, survival ratios in sterilized and unsterilized microcosms were not statistically different. These results point out the critical role played by both the endogenous microbiota and the soil physic-chemical properties in determining the survival of L. monocytogenes in soils.
Locatelli, A., Spor, A., Jolivet, C., Piveteau, P., & Hartmann, A. (2013). Biotic and Abiotic Soil Properties Influence Survival of Listeria monocytogenes in Soil. PLoS ONE, 8(10). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0075969