Microbial load, prevalence and antibiograms of Salmonella and Shigella in lettuce and green peppers

  • B Guchi
  • M Ashenafi
Keywords: Lettuce, Green Pepper, microbial load, drug resistance


Background: Human food borne infections traditionally are acquired through the ingestion of foods of animal origin. Fresh fruits and vegetables are major vehicles for the transmission of the food-borne infections. In Ethio-pia, there is a tradition of consuming raw vegetables, particularly lettuce and green pepper, without adequate treatment. The objective of this study was to investigate the microbial load of fresh lettuce and green pepper, used as salad vegetables, and to assess the prevalence and antibiotic resistance of Salmonella and Shigella spp. isolated from lettuce and green pepper. Methods: A total of eighty samples of lettuce and green peppers were purchased from different outlets in Addis Ababa and analyzed for their load of various microbial groups and flora analysis was conducted following stan-dard microbiological methods. The presence of Salmonella and Shigella and their antibiotic resistance was also determined. Results: Over 90% of the vegetable samples had aerobic mesophilic counts of . log 6 cfu/g. Ninety seven percent of the lettuce and 58% of the green pepper samples had enterobacteraceae counts of . log 5 cfu/g. Coliforms were encountered at counts . log 4 cfu/g in 48% and 35% of lettuce and green pepper samples, respectively. Over 80% of vegetable samples harbored staphylococci with counts ranging from log 4 to log 6 cfu/g. More than 88% of let-tuce and 18% of green pepper samples had yeast and mold counts . log 4 cfu/g. The aerobic mesophilic flora of the vegetable samples was dominated by Bacillus and Micrococcus spp. Salmonella and Shigella were isolated from eight (10%) and 24 (30%) samples, respectively. All of the Salmonella and 97% of Shigella isolates showed resistance to penicillin. Ampicillin resistance was observed in 42% of Salmonella and 79% of Shigella isolates. Multiple drug resistance was seen in 8 and 24 isolates of Salmonella and Shigella isolates, respectively. Conclusion: The majority of lettuce and green pepper samples had high microbial load and multiple drug resistant pathogens were also isolated from some samples. As lettuce and green pepper, when used as salad vegetables, do not get any further heat treatment, thorough washing and considerably longer exposure of the vegetables to food grade chemicals is recommended to kill pathogens and significantly reduce the microbial load

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eISSN: 1029-1857
print ISSN: 1029-1857