Heavy metal and disinfectant resistance of Listeria monocytogenes from foods and food processing plants

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2012 Oct;78(19):6938-45. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01553-12. Epub 2012 Jul 27.


The persistence of Listeria monocytogenes in food processing plants and other ecosystems reflects its ability to adapt to numerous stresses. In this study, we investigated 138 isolates from foods and food processing plants for resistance to the quaternary ammonium disinfectant benzalkonium chloride (BC) and to heavy metals (cadmium and arsenic). We also determined the prevalence of distinct cadmium resistance determinants (cadA1, cadA2, and cadA3) among cadmium-resistant isolates. Most BC-resistant isolates were resistant to cadmium as well. Arsenic resistance was encountered primarily in serotype 4b and was an attribute of most isolates of the serotype 4b epidemic clonal group ECIa. Prevalence of the known cadmium resistance determinants was serotype associated: cadA1 was more common in isolates of serotypes 1/2a and 1/2b than 4b, while cadA2 was more common in those of serotype 4b. A subset (15/77 [19%]) of the cadmium-resistant isolates lacked the known cadmium resistance determinants. Most of these isolates were of serotype 4b and were also resistant to arsenic, suggesting novel determinants that may confer resistance to both cadmium and arsenic in these serotype 4b strains. The findings may reflect previously unrecognized components of the ecological history of different serotypes and clonal groups of L. monocytogenes, including exposures to heavy metals and disinfectants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Arsenic / pharmacology
  • Benzalkonium Compounds / pharmacology*
  • Cadmium / pharmacology
  • Disinfectants / pharmacology*
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial*
  • Environmental Microbiology*
  • Food Handling
  • Food Microbiology*
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Listeria monocytogenes / classification
  • Listeria monocytogenes / drug effects*
  • Listeria monocytogenes / genetics
  • Listeria monocytogenes / isolation & purification
  • Metals, Heavy / pharmacology*
  • Serotyping


  • Benzalkonium Compounds
  • Disinfectants
  • Metals, Heavy
  • Cadmium
  • Arsenic