Antibiotics resistance and toxin profiles of Bacillus cereus-group isolates from fresh vegetables from German retail markets.
BACKGROUND: This study aimed to evaluate the safety of raw vegetable products present on the German market regarding toxin-producing Bacillus cereus sensu lato (s.l.) group bacteria. RESULTS: A total of 147 B. cereus s.l. group strains isolated from cucumbers, carrots, herbs, salad leaves and ready-to-eat mixed salad leaves were analyzed. Their toxinogenic potential was assessed by multiplex PCR targeting the hemolysin BL (hbl) component D (hblD), non-hemolytic enterotoxin (nhe) component A (nheA), cytotoxin K-2 (cytK-2) and the cereulide (ces) toxin genes. In addition, a serological test was used to detect Hbl and Nhe toxins. On the basis of PCR and serological results, none of the strains were positive for the cereulide protein/genes, while 91.2, 83.0 and 37.4% were positive for the Hbl, Nhe and CytK toxins or their genes, respectively. Numerous strains produced multiple toxins. Generally, strains showed resistance against the β-lactam antibiotics such as penicillin G and cefotaxim (100%), as well as amoxicillin/clavulanic acid combination and ampicillin (99.3%). Most strains were susceptible to ciprofloxacin (99.3%), chloramphenicol (98.6%), amikacin (98.0%), imipenem (93.9%), erythromycin (91.8%), gentamicin (88.4%), tetracycline (76.2%) and trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole combination (52.4%). The genomes of eight selected strains were sequenced. The toxin gene profiles detected by PCR and serological test mostly agreed with those from whole-genome sequence data. CONCLUSIONS: Our study showed that B. cereus s.l. strains encoding toxin genes occur in products sold on the German market and that these may pose a health risk to the consumer if present at elevated levels. Furthermore, a small percentage of these strains harbor antibiotic resistance genes. The presence of these bacteria in fresh produce should, therefore, be monitored to guarantee their safety.