The aim of the present study was to assess, for the first time to our knowledge, Listeria monocytogenes CFU changes, as well as to determine the transcription of key virulence genes, namely, sigB, prfA, hly, plcA, plcB,inlA, inlB, inlC, inlJ, inlP, and lmo2672 after in vitro exposure to human gastric and duodenal aspirates. Furthermore, investigations of the potential correlation between CFU changes and gene regulation with factors influencing gastric (proton pump inhibitor intake and presence of gastric atrophy) and duodenal pH were the secondary study aims. Gastric and duodenal fluids that were collected from 25 individuals undergoing upper gastrointestinal endoscopy were inoculated with L. monocytogenes serotype 4b strain LQC 15257 at 9 log CFU·mL−1 and incubated at 37°C for 100 min and 2 h, respectively, with the time corresponding to the actual exposure time to gastric and duodenal fluids in the human gastrointestinal tract. Sampling was performed upon gastric fluid inoculation, after incubation of the inoculated gastric fluids, upon pathogen resuspension in duodenal fluids and after incubation of the inoculated duodenal fluids. L. monocytogenes CFU changes were assessed by colony counting, as well as reverse transcription quantitative PCR by using inlB as a target. Gene transcription was assessed by reverse transcription quantitative PCR. In 56% of the cases, reduction of the pathogen CFU occurred immediately after exposure to gastric aspirate. Upregulation of hly and inlC was observed in 52 and 58% of the cases, respectively. On the contrary, no upregulation or downregulation was noticed regarding sigB, prfA, plcA, plcB, inlA, inlB, inlJ,inlP, and lmo2672. In addition, sigB and plcA transcription was positively and negatively associated, respectively, with an increase of the pH value, and inlA transcription was negatively associated with the presence of gastric atrophy. Finally, a positive correlation between the transcriptomic responses of plcB, inlA, inlB, inlC, inlJ, inlP, and lmo2672 was detected. This study revealed that the CFU of the pathogen was negatively affected after exposure to human gastroduodenal aspirates, as well as significant correlations between the characteristics of the aspirates with the virulence potential of the pathogen.

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