Influence of sweet whey protein concentrate and its hydrolysates on host–pathogen interactions in the emerging foodborne pathogenCronobacter sakazakii

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Antimicrobial resistance poses a significant global healthcare predicament. An attractive approach to the dilemma of drug-resistant bacteria is the development and use of agents that interfere with the ability of pathogens to adhere to human tissue. The influence of sweet whey protein concentrate (SWPC), and selected hydrolysates of this material, on host–pathogen interactions of Cronobacter sakazakii (ATCC 29544) was investigated.

Methods and Results:

CaCo-2 cell line was selected as a suitable model for the human intestinal epithelium. Cronobacter sakazakiiATCC 29544 was identified as the strain with the highest adhesion efficiency. SWPC reduced its association by 80% (P < 0·01), invasion 35% (P < 0·01), and translocation >95% (P < 0·001). SWPC enzymatically modified with lipase, trypsin and pepsin had variable effects on these behaviours with the most significant effect exhibited with the lipase treatment. SWPC produced an almost total inhibition of translocation of C. sakazakii across a CaCo-2 cell monolayer. Lipase and pepsin treated SWPC also reduced translocation by 75% and 90% respectively. However, trypsin treatment nullified the effect SWPC had on translocation. The presence of viable bacterial cells and SWPC both increased expression of IL-8 following Cronobacter invasion into CaCo-2 cells.


Factors governing adherence, invasion and translocation of Cronobacter spp. to human intestinal cells are multi-factorial and digested milk products exhibit varying effects dependant on their enzyme modification and protein lipid content.

Significance and Impact of the Study:

These findings contribute to our, as yet, incomplete understanding of Cronobacter pathogenesis, and suggest that SWPC in whole and enzymatically hydrolysed forms, may provide a cost-effective source of bioactive materials with inhibitory effects on bacterial virulence.

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