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Food is an important dissemination route for antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Factors used during food production and preservation may contribute to the transfer of antibiotic resistance genes, but research on this subject is scarce. In this study, the effect of temperature (7 to 37°C) and modified atmosphere packaging (air, 50% CO2-50% N2, and 100% N2) on antibiotic resistance transfer from Lactobacillus sakei subsp. sakei to Listeria monocytogenes was evaluated. Filter mating was performed on nonselective agar plates with high-density inocula. A more realistic setup was created by performing modified atmosphere experiments on cooked ham using high-density and low-density inocula. Plasmid transfer was observed between 10 and 37°C, with plasmid transfer also observed at 7°C during a prolonged incubation period. When high-density inocula were used, transconjugants were detected, both on agar plates and cooked ham, under the three atmospheres (air, 50% CO2-50% N2, and 100% N2) at 7°C. This yielded a median transfer ratio (number of transconjugants/number of recipients) with an order of magnitude of 10(4) to 10(6). With low-density inocula, transfer was only detected under the 100% N2 atmosphere after 10-day incubation at 7°C, yielding a transfer ratio of 10(5). Under this condition, the highest bacterial density was obtained. The results indicate that low temperature and modified atmosphere packaging, two important hurdles in the food industry, do not necessarily prevent plasmid transfer from Lactobacillus sakei subsp. sakei to Listeria monocytogenes.
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