|Canadian Journal of Microbiology
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Occurrence and growth characteristics of Escherichia coli and enterococci within the accumulated fluid of the northern pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea L.)
Richard L. Whitman, Stacey E. Byers, Dawn A. Shively, Donna M. Ferguson, and Muruleedhara Byappanahalli
Can. J. Microbiol./Rev. can. microbiol. 51(12): 1027-1037 (2005)
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Abstract: Sarracenia purpurea L., a carnivorous bog plant (also known as the pitcher plant), represents an excellent model of a well-defined, self-contained ecosystem; the individual pitchers of the plant serve as a microhabitat for a variety of micro- and macro-organisms. Previously, fecal indicator bacteria (Escherichia coli and enterococci) were shown as incidental contaminants in pitcher fluid; however, whether their occurrence in pitcher fluid is incidental or common has not been established. The purpose of this study was to investigate the occurrence, distribution, and growth potential of E. coli and enterococci in pitcher plant fluid from a protected bog in northwest Indiana. Escherichia coli and enterococci were recovered in pitcher fluids (n = 43 plants), with mean densities (log CFU mL–1) of 1.28 ± 0.23 and 1.97 ± 0.27, respectively. In vitro experiments showed that E. coli growth in fluid not containing insects or indigenous organisms was directly proportional to the fluid concentration (growth was 10-fold in 24 h in 100% fluid); however, in the presence of other indigenous organisms, E. coli and enterococci were only sustained for 5 days at 26 °C. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) analysis showed that the plant Enterococcus faecalis isolates were genetically distinct from the human isolates; identical PFGE patterns were observed among plant isolates that fell into one of six clonal groups. These findings suggest that (i) E. coli and enterococci occurrence in pitcher plants is rather common in the bog studied, although their originating source is unclear, and (ii) the pitcher fluid contains adequate nutrients, especially carbon and energy sources, to promote the growth of indicator bacteria; however, under natural conditions, the biotic factors (e.g., competition for nutrients) may restrict their growth.
Key words: indicator bacteria, environmental occurrence, microcosm, pitcher plant fluid, temperate bog.