Human norovirus (NoV) is the leading cause of foodborne disease in the United States, and epidemiological studies have shown that fresh produce is one of the major vehicles for the transmission of human NoV. However, the mechanisms of norovirus contamination and persistence in fresh produce are poorly understood.
The objective of this study is to determine whether human NoV surrogates, murine norovirus (MNV-1) and Tulane virus (TV), can attach and become internalized and disseminated in strawberries grown in soil.
The soil of growing strawberry plants was inoculated with MNV-1 and TV at a level of 108 PFU/plant. Leaves and berries were harvested over a 14-day period, and the viral titer was determined by plaque assay. Over the course of the study, 31.6% of the strawberries contained internalized MNV-1, with an average titer of 0.81 ± 0.33 log10 PFU/g. In comparison, 37.5% of strawberries were positive for infectious TV, with an average titer of 1.83 ± 0.22 log10 PFU/g. A higher percentage (78.7%) of strawberries were positive for TV RNA, with an average titer of 3.15 ± 0.51 log10 RNA copies/g as determined by real-time reverse transcriptase quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR).
In contrast, no or little virus internalization and dissemination were detected when TV was inoculated into bell peppers grown in soil.
Collectively, these data demonstrate (i) virally contaminated soils can lead to the internalization of virus via plant roots and subsequent dissemination to the leaf and fruit portions of growing strawberry plants and (ii) the magnitude of internalization is dependent on the type of virus and plant.
Evidence of the Internalization of Animal Caliciviruses via the Roots of Growing Strawberry Plants and Dissemination to the Fruit
Applied and Environmental Microbiology, April 2015, Volume 81, Number 8, doi:10.1128/AEM.03867-14
DiCaprio E, Culbertson D, Li J