Clostridium perfringens type A isolates can carry the enterotoxin gene (cpe) on either their chromosome or a plasmid, but food poisoning isolates usually have a chromosomal cpe gene. This linkage between chromosomal cpe isolates and food poisoning has previously been attributed, at least in part, to better high-temperature survival of chromosomal cpe isolates than of plasmid cpe isolates. In the current study we assessed whether vegetative cells and spores of chromosomal cpe isolates also survive better than vegetative cells and spores of plasmid cpe isolates survive when the vegetative cells and spores are subjected to low temperatures. Vegetative cells of chromosomal cpe isolates exhibited about eightfold-higher decimal reduction values (D values) at 4°C and threefold-higher D values at −20°C than vegetative cells of plasmid cpe isolates exhibited. After 6 months of incubation at 4°C and −20°C, the average log reductions in viability for spores of plasmid cpe isolates were about fourfold and about threefold greater, respectively, than the average log reductions in viability for spores from chromosomal cpe isolates. C. perfringens type A isolates carrying a chromosomal cpe gene also grew significantly faster than plasmid cpe isolates grew at 25°C, 37°C, or 43°C. In addition, chromosomal cpe isolates grew at higher maximum and lower minimum temperatures than plasmid cpe isolates grew. Collectively, these results suggest that chromosomal cpe isolates are commonly involved in food poisoning because of their greater resistance to low (as well as high) temperatures for both survival and growth. They also indicate the importance of proper low-temperature storage conditions, as well as heating, for prevention of C. perfringens type A food poisoning
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