Human infection with Campylobacter jejuni is frequently associated with the consumption of foods, especially chicken meat, which have been exposed to a range of temperatures during processing, storage, and cooking. Despite the public health importance of C. jejuni, little is known about the effects of cold exposure (refrigeration) on the subsequent ability of this pathogen to survive heat challenge. This work examined the effect of rapid exposure to 6°C for 24 h on the heat resistance at 52°Cof19 C. jejuni strains originally isolated from various sources. The resulting death curves were analyzed with the Weibull model. Unlike cold-exposed cells of Escherichia coli and Salmonella, which have been reported to show significant increased sensitivity to heat, such exposure had only a marginal effect on heat resistance of the C. jejuni strains in this study. A possible explanation for this effect is that rapid chilling renders C. jejuni cells unable to adapt to reduced temperatures in an active manner. This hypothesis is supported by the observation that exposure to 6°C for 24 h resulted in a significant and marked reduction in electron transport system activity when compared with controls at 37°C.

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Author notes

Present address: National Center for Zoonosis Research, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK.