The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used to detect Listeria monocytogenes in inoculated milk samples after selective enrichment. Samples of sterile skim milk and raw whole milk (with low, intermediate, and high counts of aerobic mesophilic microorganisms) were inoculated with several concentrations of L. monocytogenes. The results of PCR assays were compared to the results of culturing the samples using a standardized traditional method for isolation of L. monocytogenes. The pathogen was detected by PCR in Listeria Enrichment Broth (LEB) after 48h-incubation (sensitivity of 1CFU/mL) but not after 24h-incubation from the samples prepared with sterile skim milk. L. monocytogenes was not detected by PCR in LEB after 24 and 48h-incubation from the samples prepared with raw whole milk. Using the traditional method, the pathogen was detected in all experiments. However, sensitivity decreased in raw whole milk with high counts of aerobic mesophilic microorganisms (up to 7CFU/mL). Best results were obtained when PCR was done to identify presumptive L. monocytogenes colonies directly from Palcam and Oxford media, after the enrichment step. This procedure allowed reducing to a few hours the period of several days usually needed to obtain the final identification of L. monocytogenes using phenotypic tests.
food pathogen; detection method; PCR; food safety