Molecular Pathogenesis of Bacillus spp., with Emphasis on the Dairy Industry

  • Alyssa A. Grutsch Ball State University
  • Pierre S. Nimmer Ball State University
  • Rachel H. Pittsley Ball State University
  • Katherine G. Kornilow Ball State University
  • John L. McKillip Ball State University
Keywords: Bacillus, enterotoxins, food pathogen


The bacterial species Bacillus cereus accounts for 1.4-12% of foodborne illness outbreaks worldwide, a statistic that is certainly an underestimate. This bacterial genus is capable of contaminating a wide range of food products, including rice, chicken, vegetables, spices, and dairy products. B. cereus endospores are partially resistant to pasteurization, dehydration, gamma radiation, and other physical stresses used in food processing, and their adhesive characteristics promote biofilm-forming capability on a variety of substrates in dairy operations. B. cereus and other closely-related species produce several types of exotoxins, including at least four hemolysins, three phospholipases, a heat/acid stable emetic toxin called cereulide, and three well-studied heat-labile enterotoxins that all cause gastroenteritis following ingestion. While a great deal of information on virulence gene presence and expression is known in B. cereus, very little has been done to explore the virulence potential of thermoduric spore-formers that may be found in ultrahigh temperature (UHT) pasteurized milk, and their ability to produce biofilms. Biofilm production is understood to be under similar regulation as toxins and other extracellular virulence determinants. This chapter describes the current status of knowledge with Bacillus spp. relevant to the dairy industry, virulence potential, and biofilm production from the perspective of food safety.
How to Cite
Grutsch, A., Nimmer, P., Pittsley, R., Kornilow, K., & McKillip, J. (2018). Molecular Pathogenesis of Bacillus spp., with Emphasis on the Dairy Industry. Fine Focus, 4(2), 203-222.