Inhibition of enterotoxin production by, and growth of enteropathogens in a lactic acid-fermenting cereal gruel

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Growth and enterotoxin production of three strains of Campylobacter jejuni or Escherichia coli known to produce heat labile enterotoxins were evaluated when added into a lactic acid-fermenting cereal gruel, togwa. A single strain of each of the enteropathogens was simultaneously inoculated with a lactic acid starter culture (sc) to reach a level of about 107 c.f.u./ml and was left to ferment for 48h. Gruels without sc (control gruel), pure cholera toxin in fermenting or control gruel and the test bacteria inoculated into nutrient broth were used as positive toxin controls; gruel without inoculated test bacteria was the toxin-negative control. Viable colonies were counted by spread plating 0.1 ml of gruel subsamples collected at intervals during the fermentation period onto different selective media and the heat labile enterotoxin production was evaluated using an assay on Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells. In the fermenting gruels, no viable cells of the C. jejuni and E. coli strains were detected after 8 and 24h incubation, respectively, but inocula increased in number or remained at the initial level in the control gruel and in the nutrient broth. After 24h incubation, all supernatants of control gruels with inoculated bacteria showed enterotoxicity to the CHO cells (indicated by elongation of 20–50% of the cells). No toxin activity was observed in the fermenting gruels with or without added bacteria or in control gruel alone. Pure cholera toxin added to control gruel caused the enterotoxigenic effect in 70–100% of the CHO cells, but no activity was detected when it was added to the fermenting gruel. The CHO cells were affected instead by a low pH level but were not elongated. Adjusting the pH of fermented gruels to approximately neutral levels restored the toxin effect when cholera toxin was added but not in the presence of added test bacteria. We conclude that lactic acid fermented cereal gruels with pH ≤4 have a high potential to inhibit the growth of enteropathogenic bacteria of the genera C. jejuni and E. coli and to inhibit production of heat labile enterotoxins. Regular consumption of fermented cereal weaning foods will therefore reduce transmission of enterotoxin-producing bacteria, and ingestion of enterotoxins.

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