We investigated the ability of several strains of L. monocytogenes and Listeria innocua strains to survive in local soil samples in vitro. Survival of three L. monocytogenes strains, EGDe, CD83, and CD1038, and three L. innocua strains, CLIP, FH2117, FH2152, was monitored in soil samples by direct enumeration of colony-forming units on selective agar. The study did not demonstrate any species-specific difference in soil survival, and all Listeria strains exhibited a marked decline in numbers over time. Bioluminescence imaging approaches to detect lux-tagged strains in soil proved largely ineffective, most likely due to the reduced metabolic activity of strains in this environment. We investigated the influence of specific factors including the presence of a background microbiota, growth temperature, moisture and strain motility upon persistence in this environment. A sequenced L. monocytogenes strain, EGDe, was capable of active growth in sterile soil yet exhibited a decline in the presence of the normal soil microbiota. Furthermore, greater survival was seen at lower incubation temperatures in normal soil. Finally, we demonstrated a direct correlation between motility and survival of L. monocytogenes in soil with highly motile L. monocytogenes strains exhibiting greater soil survival than non-motile mutants.
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