Efficacy of the thin agar layer method for the recovery of stressed Cronobacter spp. (Enterobacter sakazakii)

J Food Prot. 2010 Oct;73(10):1913-8. doi: 10.4315/0362-028x-73.10.1913.


Cronobacter spp. (Enterobacter sakazakii) are emerging opportunistic pathogens for all age groups, and are of particular concern when it comes to infants. Prior to contaminating food, the organism may be exposed to a variety of stresses, leading to a generation of sublethally injured cells that may not be detected by selective media unless a protracted recovery period is included in the isolation procedure. This study evaluated the efficacy of the thin agar layer (TAL) method for the recovery of Cronobacter cells that had been exposed to various stress conditions. Five strains of C. sakazakii and C. muytjensii were exposed to starvation, heat, cold, acid, alkaline, chlorine, or ethanol, with or without further exposure to desiccation stress. The recovery of the stressed cells was determined on tryptone soy agar (TSA; nonselective control medium), violet red bile glucose agar (VRBGA; selective agar), Druggan-Forsythe-Iversen (DFI; selective agar), and TAL media (viz., VRBGA overlaid with TSA, and DFI overlaid with TSA). Regardless of stress type, there were no significant differences among the recoveries of stressed desiccated Cronobacter spp. cultures on TSA, DFI+TSA, and VRBGA+TSA, but there was significantly less recovery on VRBGA. The recovery of prestressed desiccated Cronobacter spp. on DFI+TSA was similar to that on TSA, whereas the recovery on VRBGA+TSA was lower. DFI+TSA performed better than VRBGA+TSA did in differentiating Cronobacter spp. within mixed bacterial cultures. The results of this study suggest the use of the TAL method DFI+TSA as an improved method for the direct recovery of stressed Cronobacter spp.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agar / chemistry*
  • Agar / metabolism
  • Colony Count, Microbial / methods*
  • Cronobacter sakazakii / isolation & purification*
  • Enterobacter / isolation & purification
  • Food Contamination / analysis*
  • Food Microbiology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Food / microbiology*
  • Infant Formula


  • Agar