Potential reservoirs and routes of Cronobacter transmission during cereal growing, processing and consumption
Abstract Cronobacter are opportunistic bacterial pathogens of both infants and adults. We investigated the incidence and distribution of Cronobacter in 1245 samples of cereal and related environments. 39.1% (101/258) rice-related and 46.9% (98/209) wheat-related samples tested positive for Cronobacter , and the positive rate differed notably according to processing method. Cronobacter was found in rice and wheat plants at the tillering, filling and mature stages. Soil, water and swab samples from nearby milling plants were assayed, and results revealed that 6.3% (7/122) of water from paddy fields, 49.1% (28/57) and 62.1% (41/67) of swab samples from rice and wheat flour milling plants were Cronobacter positive. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) subtyping indicated that some strains had a common profile, which suggested their persistence in the environment, potential transmission routes and cross-contamination in processing. Finally, we surveyed 18 families to evaluate potential risks. None of the families who primarily ate rice cooked with water tested positive for Cronobacter , though of 66.7% families (6/9) whose food staples were produced from wheat flour tested positive. Taken together, our results are important for understanding Cronobacter transmission and will aid in the development of additional control measures to reduce the risk of infection by these opportunistic pathogenic bacteria.