Study of the transfer of Listeria monocytogenes during the slaughter of cattle using molecular typing

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Abstract

The introduction, transmission, and persistence of Listeria monocytogenes in Belgian beef slaughterhouses was investigated using genetic characterization. During slaughter, samples were taken of the hide, carcass, and environment to detect the pathogen. Remarkably, L. monocytogenes was massively present on the hide of incoming animals (93%; 112/120), regardless of their visual cleanliness, which implies high contamination pressure levels entering the slaughterhouses. Pathogen transfer via cross-contamination was conclusively confirmed in this study, with the same pulsotypes isolated from the hide, carcass, and environmental samples. Despite the important bacterial presence on the hide of incoming animals, most slaughterhouses succeeded in limiting the transfer as cause of carcass contamination. Persistence along the slaughter line seemed to be a more significant problem, as it was clearly linked to most of the L. monocytogenes positive carcasses. In one slaughterhouse, whole genome sequencing (WGS) revealed that the carcass splitter had been contaminating carcasses with the same strain belonging to CC9 for more than one year.

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Demaître, N., De Reu, K., Haegeman, A., Schaumont, D., De Zutter, L., Geeraerd, A., & Rasschaert, G. (2021). Study of the transfer of Listeria monocytogenes during the slaughter of cattle using molecular typing. Meat Science, 175. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.meatsci.2021.108450

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