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Research Explains How Some Harmful Bacteria Survive Harsh Digestive Environment

September 5, 2010: 08:28 AM EST
Food-borne bacteria that could cause food poisoning often don’t, thanks to the harsh acidic environment in the stomach and the intestines. But bacteria often survive to wreak havoc – Listeria, for example, can cause serious, even fatal infections in the elderly and pregnant women – because they use different tricks to help them endure inside the body. British research into Listeria bacteria found in soft cheese and chilled ready-to-eat products can overcome acidic conditions by exploiting key food ingredients. The amino acid glutamate in soft cheese and meat products can help bacteria neutralize acid, allowing the bacteria to pass through the stomach unscathed. Listeria can also take advantage of food processing and storage conditions to help them survive.
Colin Hill, "Talented bacteria make food poisoning unpredictable", Presentation, Society for General Microbiology autumn meeting, September 05, 2010, © Hill et al.
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