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Bacillus cereus: public health burden associated with ready-to-eat foods in Himachal Pradesh, India


The study determined incidence, enterotoxigenecity and antimicrobial susceptibility profiles of Bacillus cereus isolated from ready-to-eat (RTE) milk products (n = 80), RTE meat products (n = 40), beverages (n = 40) and water samples (n = 60, from food preparing and serving outlets/restaurants) collected from eight different tourist places of Himachal Pradesh. 11.4% (25/220) samples were contaminated with Bacillus and isolates were identified as B. cereus (76.0%, n = 19), B. alvei (12.0%, n = 3), B. polymyxa (8.0%, n = 2) and B. firmus (4.0%, n = 1) by conventional and molecular methods. B. cereus incidence was highest in cheese based foods (25.0%) followed by vegetable soups (16.7%), khoa based foods (14.0%), milk based beverages (10.5%), paneer based foods (8.6%), cream based foods (8.3%) and water (8.3%) samples. Multiplex polymerase chain reaction detected enterotoxigenic genes only in B. cereus isolates. nhe complex (encoding non-haemolytic enterotoxins, ABC) genes were detected only in B. cereus isolates. 57.6% (11/19), 36.8% (7/19) and 5.3% (1/19) harboured all three (nheA, nheB, nheC), two (nheB, nheC) and one (nheC) nhe gene, respectively. Among hbl complex genes (encoding haemolytic enterotoxins CAD), only hblC (36.8%, 7/19) was detected. Incidence B. cereus cytK (encoding cytotoxin enterotoxin) was 52.6% (10/19). Each B. cereus isolate harboured two or more enterotoxigenic genes. Seven isolates had at least one gene from haemolytic and non-haemolytic complexes along with cytK. High levels (> 50%) of antimicrobial resistance were recorded for penicillin, amoxicillin, ampicillin cefixime and ceftazidine in tested B. cereus isolates. Two isolates were identified as multidrug resistant isolates with resistance to ≥ 3 antibiotic classes.

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We are thankful to CSK Himachal Pradesh Agricultural University for financial and infrastructure support for this research. The necessary help and technical support provided by Head, Department of Veterinary Microbiology, Dr. GC Negi College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, CSK Himachal Pradesh Agricultural is duly acknowledged.

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Correspondence to Sidharath Dev Thakur.

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Rana, N., Panda, A.K., Pathak, N. et al. Bacillus cereus: public health burden associated with ready-to-eat foods in Himachal Pradesh, India. J Food Sci Technol (2020).

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  • Enterotoxins
  • Antimicrobial susceptibility
  • nhe complex
  • hlb complex
  • cytK