Microbial diversity of the raw milk for the production of Fior di Latte di Agerola and its changes during cheesemaking were studied. Viable counts showed that at the end of curd ripening, loads of lactic acid bacteria, both mesophilic and thermophilic rods and cocci, higher than those commonly evidenced in similar cheeses produced by using natural or commercial starters, were detected. Identification of 272 isolates, supported by molecular diagnostic aids, evidenced representative cultures of a high number of bacterial taxa of interest as participating in the process, although most of the isolates belonged to Lactococcus lactis and Lactobacillus helveticus species. RAPD-PCR and REA-PFGE biotyping were performed for the isolates of the above species and it was shown that most of the strains isolated from the raw milk occurred during the whole cheesemaking process, and an active role of these strains in the fermentation was supposed. The results offer further proof of the importance of the raw milk as source of technologically interesting strains of lactic acid bacteria capable of driving the fermentation of traditional cheeses.
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