139 sickened: characterization of three Bacillus cereus strains involved in outbreak of food poisoning after consumption of fermented black beans (douchi) in Yunan, China

Three Bacillus cereus strains isolated from an outbreak of food poisoning caused by the consumption of fermented black beans (douchi) containing B. cereus is described.

douchiThe outbreak involved 139 persons who had nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The strains were isolated from vomit and the unprepared douchi.

Two of the strains produced the emetic toxin cereulide, as evidenced by polymerase chain reaction analysis for the presence of the nonribosomal synthetase cluster responsible for the synthesis of cereulide and by chemical analysis by high-performance liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry. These two strains belong to genetic group III of B. cereus, and multiple locus sequence typing revealed that the type was ST26, as a major part of B. cereus emetic strains. One of these strains produced significantly more cereulide at 37°C than the type cereulide producer (F4810/72), and it was also able to produce the toxin at 40°C and 42°C. The third strain belongs to genetic group IV, and it is a new multiple locus sequence type closely related to strains that are cytotoxic and enterotoxigenic. It possesses genes for hemolysin BL, nonhemolytic enterotoxin, and cytotoxin K2; however, it varies from the majority of strains possessing genes for hemolysin BL by not being hemolytic. Thus, two B. cereus strains producing the emetic toxin cereulide and a strain producing enterotoxins might have been involved in this food-poisoning incident caused by the consumption of a natural fermented food.

The ability of one of the strains to produce cereulide at ≥37°C makes it possible that it is produced in the human gut in addition to occurring in the food.

Foodborne Pathogens and Disease. Online Ahead of Print: September 4, 2014. doi:10.1089/fpd.2014.1768.

Guoping Zhou, Kai Bester, Bin Liao, Zushun Yang, Rongrong Jiang, and Niels Bohse Hendriksen