The prevalence of Listeria monocytogenes and Staphylococcus aureus and their virulence genes in bulk tank milk in Kosovo
Introduction: Milk is considered to be a healthy, nutritious food product. Microbiological quality is an important aspect in evaluating the quality of milk.
Methodology: A total of 603 bulk tank milk samples from 221 farms distributed across ten different regions were collected for milk quality assessment. Quality was judged by total viable count, and the prevalence of two foodborne pathogens (Listeria monocytogenes and Staphylococcus aureus) by using selective media and 16S rRNA gene sequencing. The presence of virulence genes was detected by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using specific primers.
Results: Milk from only 7% (15/221) of farms were found to comply with the European Union standard. Interestingly, the microbiological quality of milk from the larger herd size farms (more than 10 cows) was better than in smaller herds. L. monocytogenes was found in 2.7% (6/221) of farms, and all the examined L. monocytogenes isolates were positive with respect to the virulence genes prfA, actA, and hlyA. S. aureus was found in 39.8% (88/221) of the farms. In total, 30.7% (27/88) of the staphylococci were positive for enterotoxin production. The enterotoxins identified were toxin B (40.7%), toxin D (33.4%), toxin C (18.5%), and toxin A (7.4%).
Conclusions: The total number of bacteria in milk was very high. The presence of two foodborne pathogens in raw milk represents a great health risk to consumers. To improve the microbial quality of milk in Kosovo, important measures to improve hygiene, including better information, guidance, and control, are needed.
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