Disrupting Cell Communication in Bacteria May Prevent Foodborne Illness

February 13, 2009



Disrupting Cell Communication in Bacteria May Prevent Foodborne Illness
New IFT Report Examines Quorum Sensing

CHICAGO — The rise in the number of foodborne illnesses from Salmonella, Listeria, and  E. coli, coupled with the lack of an effective intervention method, has led to intense scientific research into prevention efforts. One solution may be interfering with quorum sensing, a sophisticated network of cell-to-cell communication in bacteria that may cause foodborne illness, according to a Scientific Status Summary published by the Institute of Food Technologists.

In the article, published in the January/February 2009 issue of the Journal of Food Science, authors Bassam A. Annous, Pina M. Fratamico, and James L. Smith of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service, Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, review recent research on how inhibiting quorum sensing may help decrease foodborne illnesses. Interfering with quorum sensing impedes the growth of bacterial communities known as biofilms that can form on foods such as fresh produce. A biofilm might appear, for example, as a sticky film on a melon.  Resistant to many conventional washing methods, biofilms cause persistent low-level contamination of foods. 

According to the authors, “It may be possible for foods to be formulated to interfere with quorum sensing and thus inhibit growth of spoilage or pathogenic organisms, virulence, and biofilm formation, which would greatly benefit food production quality and safety.”

For the complete Scientific Status Summary, “Quorum Sensing in Biofilms: Why Bacteria Behave the Way They Do,” click:



Founded in 1939, the Institute of Food Technologists is a nonprofit scientific society with more than 20,000 individual members working in food science, food technology, and related professions in industry, academia, and government. IFT serves as a conduit for multidisciplinary science thought leadership, championing the use of sound science through knowledge sharing, education, and advocacy.

For more on IFT, see www.ift.org.