To elucidate the occurrence of heat-stable toxin-producing strains among mastitic Bacillus isolates, 100 milk samples of mastitic cows from different parts of Finland were screened. Bacillus was identified as the major organism in 23 samples. Toxinogenic Bacillus isolates identified by sperm cell motility inhibition assay were isolated from six samples. Four isolates belonged to the species Bacillus pumilus and two to Bacillus licheniformis. The toxic substances were heat-stable and soluble to methanol thus being of non-protein nature. The methanol extracted substances disrupted the sperm cell plasma membrane permeability barrier at exposure concentrations of 1–15 ìg ml−1 (B. pumilus) or 20–30 ìg ml−1 (B. licheniformis). The toxic properties of the two mastitic B. licheniformis strains were similar to those of B. licheniformis strains known to produce the lipopeptide lichenysin A and the synthetase genes lchAA, lchAB and lchAC for lichenysin were found in the mastitic strains by PCR. Toxin synthetase genes for the syntheses of lichenysin or surfactin were searched but not found in the toxic B. pumilus strains. The ribopatterns of the mastitic B. pumilus and B. licheniformis isolates were similar to those of the toxinogenic strains described earlier from food poisoning incidents and contaminated indoor air. B. licheniformis and B. pumilus survive pasteurization and other heat treatments as spores. Toxin-producing strains of these species in the dairy production chain may thus be of food safety concern.
- Bacillus pumilus
- Bacillus licheniformis