“TBDx” is an innovative smear microscopy system that automatically loads slides onto a microscope, focuses and digitally captures images and then classifies smears as positive or negative using computerised algorithms.
To determine the diagnostic accuracy of TBDx, using culture as the gold standard, and compare this to a microscopist's diagnostic performance.
This study is nested within a cross-sectional study of tuberculosis suspects from South African gold mines. All tuberculosis suspects had one sputum sample collected, which was decontaminated prior to smear microscopy, liquid culture and organism identification. All slides were auramine-stained and then read by both a research microscopist and by TBDx using fluorescence microscopes, classifying slides based on the WHO classification standard of 100 fields of view (FoV) at 400× magnification.
Of 981 specimens, 269 were culture positive for Mycobacterium tuberculosis (27.4%). TBDx had higher sensitivity than the microscopist (75.8% versus 52.8%, respectively), but markedly lower specificity (43.5% versus 98.6%, respectively). TBDx classified 520/981 smears (53.0%) as scanty positive. Hence, a proposed hybrid software/human approach that combined TBDx examination of all smears with microscopist re-examination of TBDx scanty smears was explored by replacing the “positive” result of slides with 1–9 AFB detected on TBDx with the microscopist's original reading. Compared to using the microscopist's original results for all 981 slides, this hybrid approach resulted in equivalent specificity, a slight reduction in sensitivity from 52.8% to 49.4% (difference of 3.3%; 95% confidence interval: 0.2%, 6.5%), and a reduction in the number of slides to be read by the microscopist by 47.0%.
Compared to a research microscopist, the hybrid software/human approach had similar specificity and positive predictive value, but sensitivity requires further improvement. Automated microscopy has the potential to substantially reduce the number of slides read by microscopists.
Fifty bacteriophage isolates of Erwinia amylovora, the causal agent of fire blight, were collected from sites in and around the Niagara region of southern Ontario and the Royal Botanical Gardens, Hamilton, Ontario. Forty-two phages survived the isolation, purification, and storage processes. The majority of the phages in the collection were isolated from the soil surrounding trees exhibiting fire blight symptoms. Only five phages were isolated from infected aerial tissue in pear and apple orchards. To avoid any single-host selection bias, six bacterial host strains were used in the initial isolation and enrichment processes. Molecular characterization of the phages with a combination of PCR and restriction endonuclease digestions showed that six distinct phage types, described as groups 1 to 6, were recovered. Ten phage isolates were related to the previously characterized E. amylovora PEa1, with some divergence of molecular markers between phages isolated from different sites. A study of the host ranges of the phages revealed that certain types were unable to efficiently lyse some E. amylovora strains and that some isolates were able to lyse the epiphytic bacterium Pantoea agglomerans. Representatives from the six molecular groups were studied by electron microscopy to determine their morphology. The phages exhibited distinct morphologies when examined by an electron microscope. Group 1 and 2 phages were tailed and contractile, and phages belonging to groups 3 to 6 had short tails or openings with thin appendages. Based on morphotypes, the bacteriophages of E. amylovora were placed in the order Caudovirales, in the families Myoviridae and Podoviridae.
While the ability of bacteriophages to kill bacteria is well known and has been used in some centers to combat antibiotics – resistant infections, our knowledge about phage interactions with mammalian cells is very limited and phages have been believed to have no intrinsic tropism for those cells.
Presentation of the hypothesis
At least some phages (e.g., T4 coliphage) express Lys-Arg-Gly (KGD) sequence which binds β3 integrins (primarily αIIbβ3). Therefore, phages could bind β3+ cells (platelets, monocytes, some lymphocytes and some neoplastic cells) and downregulate activities of those cells by inhibiting integrin functions.
Testing the hypothesis
Binding of KGD+ phages to β3 integrin+ cells may be detected using standard techniques involving phage – mediated bacterial lysis and plaque formation. Furthermore, the binding may be visualized by electron microscopy and fluorescence using labelled phages. Binding specificity can be confirmed with the aid of specific blocking peptides and monoclonal antibodies. In vivo effects of phage – cell interactions may be assessed by examining the possible biological effects of β3 blockade (e.g., anti-metastatic activity).
Implication of the hypothesis
If, indeed, phages can modify functions of β3+ cells (platelets, monocytes, lymphocytes, cancer cells) they could be important biological response modifiers regulating migration and activities of those cells. Such novel understanding of their role could open novel perspectives in their potential use in treatment of cardiovascular and autoimmune disease, graft rejection and cancer.
Multi-resistant Achromobacter xylosoxidans has been recognized as an emerging pathogen causing nosocomially acquired infections during the last years. Phages as natural opponents could be an alternative to fight such infections. Bacteriophages against this opportunistic pathogen were isolated in a recent study. This study shows a molecular analysis of two podoviruses and reveals first insights into the genomic structure of Achromobacter phages so far.
Growth curve experiments and adsorption kinetics were performed for both phages. Adsorption and propagation in cells were visualized by electron microscopy. Both phage genomes were sequenced with the PacBio RS II system based on single molecule, real-time (SMRT) technology and annotated with several bioinformatic tools. To further elucidate the evolutionary relationships between the phage genomes, a phylogenomic analysis was conducted using the genome Blast Distance Phylogeny approach (GBDP).
In this study, we present the first detailed analysis of genome sequences of two Achromobacter phages so far. Phages JWAlpha and JWDelta were isolated from two different waste water treatment plants in Germany. Both phages belong to the Podoviridae and contain linear, double-stranded DNA with a length of 72329 bp and 73659 bp, respectively. 92 and 89 putative open reading frames were identified for JWAlpha and JWDelta, respectively, by bioinformatic analysis with several tools. The genomes have nearly the same organization and could be divided into different clusters for transcription, replication, host interaction, head and tail structure and lysis. Detailed annotation via protein comparisons with BLASTP revealed strong similarities to N4-like phages.
Analysis of the genomes of Achromobacter phages JWAlpha and JWDelta and comparisons of different gene clusters with other phages revealed that they might be strongly related to other N4-like phages, especially of the Escherichia group. Although all these phages show a highly conserved genomic structure and partially strong similarities at the amino acid level, some differences could be identified. Those differences, e.g. the existence of specific genes for replication or host interaction in some N4-like phages, seem to be interesting targets for further examination of function and specific mechanisms, which might enlighten the mechanism of phage establishment in the host cell after infection.
Achromobacter xylosoxidans; N4-like phage; Genome; Lar-like protein; N4likevirus; Podoviridae; GBDP
Leuconostoc (Ln.), Weissella, and Oenococcus form a group of related genera of lactic acid bacteria, which once all shared the name Leuconostoc. They are associated with plants, fermented vegetable products, raw milk, dairy products, meat, and fish. Most of industrially relevant Leuconostoc strains can be classified as either Ln. mesenteroides or Ln. pseudomesenteroides. They are important flavor producers in dairy fermentations and they initiate nearly all vegetable fermentations. Therefore, bacteriophages attacking Leuconostoc strains may negatively influence the production process. Bacteriophages attacking Leuconostoc strains were first reported in 1946. Since then, the majority of described Leuconostoc phages was isolated from either dairy products or fermented vegetable products. Both lytic and temperate phages of Leuconostoc were reported. Most of Leuconostoc phages examined using electron microscopy belong to the Siphoviridae family and differ in morphological details. Hybridization and comparative genomic studies of Leuconostoc phages suggest that they can be divided into several groups, however overall diversity of Leuconostoc phages is much lower as compared to, e.g., lactococcal phages. Several fully sequenced genomes of Leuconostoc phages have been deposited in public databases. Lytic phages of Leuconostoc can be divided into two host species-specific groups with similarly organized genomes that shared very low nucleotide similarity. Phages of dairy Leuconostoc have rather limited host-ranges. The receptor binding proteins of two lytic Ln. pseudomesenteroides phages have been identified. Molecular tools for detection of dairy Leuconostoc phages have been developed. The rather limited data on phages of Oenococcus and Weissella show that (i) lysogeny seems to be abundant in Oenococcus strains, and (ii) several phages infecting Weissella cibaria are also able to productively infect strains of other Weissella species and even strains of the genus Lactobacillus.
bacteriophages; Leuconostoc; Oenococcus; Weissella; morphogenesis; DNA sequence analysis
Images of PC hollow MN arrays using a variety of microscopy techniques (a) Digital microscope images of single MN and a section of the MN array (b) SEM images of a single MN, the bore of the MN and a section of the MN array (c) X-ray microtomography images of single MNs, the bore of the MN and the Mn array (d) He-ion images of a single MN, illustrating the bore of the needle and a radial view of the MN.
Interest in bacteriophages as therapeutic agents has recently been reawakened. Parenteral delivery is the most routinely-employed method of administration. However, injection of phages has numerous disadvantages, such as the requirement of a health professional for administration and the possibility of cross-contamination. Transdermal delivery offers one potential means of overcoming many of these problems. The present study utilized a novel poly (carbonate) (PC) hollow microneedle (MN) device for the transdermal delivery of Escherichia coli-specific T4 bacteriophages both in vitro and in vivo. MN successfully achieved bacteriophage delivery in vitro across dermatomed and full thickness skin. A concentration of 2.67 × 106 PFU/ml (plaque forming units per ml) was detected in the receiver compartment when delivered across dermatomed skin and 4.0 × 103 PFU/ml was detected in the receiver compartment when delivered across full thickness skin. An in vivo study resulted in 4.13 × 103 PFU/ml being detected in blood 30 min following initial MN-mediated phage administration. Clearance occurred rapidly, with phages being completely cleared from the systemic circulation within 24 h, which was expected in the absence of infection. We have shown here that MN-mediated delivery allows successful systemic phage absorption. Accordingly, bacteriophage-based therapeutics may now have an alternative route for systemic delivery. Once fully-investigated, this could lead to more widespread investigation of these interesting therapeutic viruses.
Bacteriophage therapy; Transdermal delivery; Hollow microneedle; Bacterial infection
Bacteriophage populations in an activated-sludge sewage treatment plant were enumerated. A newly developed assay for quantitation of total phages, employing direct electron microscopic counts, was used in conjunction with the plaque assay. The total concentration of phages was significantly higher in reactor mixed liquor and effluent than in influent sewage, indicating a net production of phages within the reactor. Maximum total phage concentrations in the fluid phase of sewage, activated-sludge mixed liquor, and reactor effluent were 2.2 × 107, 9.5 × 107, and 8.4 × 107/ml, respectively. Conditions were optimized for isolation of predominant heterotrophic aerobic bacteria from sewage and mixed liquor. Blending at ice water temperatures was superior to ultrasound or enzyme treatments for maximum release of viable bacteria from microbial floc. A solidified extract of mixed liquor was superior to standard media for cultivating maximum numbers of heterotrophic bacteria. The highest culture counts for sewage and mixed liquor were 1.4 × 107 and 1.3 × 109/ml, respectively, which represented only 3 and 6.8% of the total microscopic cell counts. Only 3 out of 48 dominant bacterial isolates from either mixed liquor or sewage were hosts for phages present in the system. The sum of phage populations infecting these three hosts accounted for, at best, 3.8% (sewage) and 0.2% (mixed liquor) of the total number of phages present. Generally, specific phage titers were lower in mixed liquor than in sewage, indicating that these hosts were not responsible for the net production of phages in the reactor. This study emphasizes the limitations of the plaque assay for ecological studies of phages, and it suggests that bacteria responsible for phage production in activated-sludge mixed liquor are either minor components of the heterotrophic population, floc-producing strains, or members of other physiological groups.
The inactivation kinetics of bacteriophage f2 were studied by using ozone under controlled laboratory conditions. The phage were rapidly inactivated during the first 5 s of the reaction by 5 and 7 logs at ozone concentrations of 0.09 and 0.8 mg/liter, respectively. During the next 10 min, the phage were further inactivated at a slower rate in both treatments. The [3H]uridine-labeled f2 phage and its ribonucleic acid (RNA) were examined to elucidate the mechanism of ozone inactivation, utilizing adsorption to host bacteria, sucrose density gradient analysis, and electron microscopy. The specific adsorption of the phage was reduced by ozonation in the same pattern as plaque-forming unit reduction. RNA was released from the phage particles during ozonation, although it had reduced infectivity for spheroplasts. Electron microscopic examination showed that the phage coat was broken by ozonation into many protein subunit pieces and that the specific adsorption of the phage to host pili was inversely related to the extent of phage breakage. The RNA enclosed in the phage coat was inactivated less by ozonation than were whole phage, but inactivated more than naked RNA. These findings suggest that ozone breaks the protein capsid into subunits, liberating RNA and disrupting adsorption to the host pili, and that the RNA may be secondarily sheared by a reduction with and/or without the coat protein molecules, which have been modified by ozonation.
Sewage was enriched with 35 Escherichia coli strains, and sediments of enrichment cultures were studied in the electron microscope. They contained up to 10 varieties of morphologically different particles. T-even-type phages predominated in 14 samples. Thirteen phages were enriched, representing the families Myoviridae (seven), Styloviridae (two), Podoviridae (three), and Microviridae (one). Twelve of these corresponded to known enterobacterial phage species, namely, 121, K19, FC3-9, O1, 9266, T2, 16-19, kappa, beta 4, N4, T7, and phi X174. Cubic RNA phages and filamentous phages were not detected. Types 121 and 9266 have previously been observed only in Romania and South Africa. Identification by morphology is usually simple. Our investigative technique is qualitative and will not detect all phages present. Most enrichment strains are polyvalent, and electron microscopy is always required for phage identification. In a general way, electron microscopy seems to be the method of choice for investigation of phage geography and ecology.
Acinetobacter baumannii is an emerging nosocomial pathogen worldwide with increasing prevalence of multi-drug and pan-drug resistance. A. baumannii exists widely in natural environment, especially in health care settings, and has been shown difficult to be eradicated. Bacteriophages are often considered alternative agent for controlling bacterial infection and contamination. In this study, we described the isolation and characterization of one virulent bacteriophage AB1 capable of specifically infecting A. baumannii.
A virulent bacteriophage AB1, specific for infecting a clinical strain A. baumannii KD311, was first isolated from marine sediment sample. Restriction analysis indicated that phage AB1 was a dsDNA virus with an approximate genome size of 45.2 kb to 46.9 kb. Transmission electron microscopy showed that phage AB1 had an icosahedral head with a non-contractile tail and collar or whisker structures, and might be tentatively classified as a member of the Siphoviridae family. Proteomic pattern of phage AB1, generated by SDS-PAGE using purified phage particles, revealed five major bands and six minor bands with molecular weight ranging from 14 to 80 kilo-dalton. Also determined was the adsorption rate of phage AB1 to the host bacterium, which was significantly enhanced by addition of 10 mM CaCl2. In a single step growth test, phage AB1 was shown having a latent period of 18 minutes and a burst size of 409. Moreover, pH and thermal stability of phage AB1 were also investigated. At the optimal pH 6.0, 73.2% of phages survived after 60 min incubation at 50°C. When phage AB1 was used to infect four additional clinical isolates of A. baumannii, one clinical isolate of Stenotrophomonas maltophilia, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa lab strains PAK and PAO1, none of the tested strains was found susceptible, indicating a relatively narrow host range for phage AB1.
Phage AB1 was capable of eliciting efficient lysis of A. baumannii, revealing its potential as a non-toxic sanitizer for controlling A. baumannii infection and contamination in both hospital and other public environments.
Anna Sergeyevna Tikhonenko (1925–2010) is to be remembered for the excellency of her electron microscopical work, particularly with bacteriophages. She published 113 articles and one book, Ultrastructure of Bacterial Viruses (Izdadelstvo Nauka, Moscow 1968; Plenum Press, New York, 1972). It included 134 micrographs and a complete overview of the 316 phages then examined by electron microscopy. Most micrographs were of exceptional quality. This book, a rarity in those days of strict separation of Soviet and Western research, was the first bacteriophage atlas in the literature and presented a morphological classification of phages into five categories of family level, similar to a scheme presented in 1965 by D.E. Bradley (J Royal Microsc Soc 84:257–316). Her book remains one of the fundamentals of phage research.
TEM; biography; classification; history; immuno-EM
The basis for correctly assessing the burden of parasitic infections and the effects of interventions relies on a somewhat shaky foundation as long as we do not know how reliable the reported laboratory findings are. Thus virtual microscopy, successfully introduced as a histopathology tool, has been adapted for medical parasitology.
Specimens containing parasites in tissues, stools, and blood have been digitized and made accessible as a “webmicroscope for parasitology” (WMP) on the Internet (http://www.webmicroscope.net/parasitology).These digitized specimens can be viewed (“navigated” both in the x-axis and the y-axis) at the desired magnification by an unrestricted number of individuals simultaneously. For virtual microscopy of specimens containing stool parasites, it was necessary to develop the technique further in order to enable navigation in the z plane (i.e., “focusing”). Specimens were therefore scanned and photographed in two or more focal planes. The resulting digitized specimens consist of stacks of laterally “stiched” individual images covering the entire area of the sample photographed at high magnification. The digitized image information (∼10 GB uncompressed data per specimen) is accessible at data transfer speeds from 2 to 10 Mb/s via a network of five image servers located in different parts of Europe. Image streaming and rapid data transfer to an ordinary personal computer makes web-based virtual microscopy similar to conventional microscopy.
The potential of this novel technique in the field of medical parasitology to share identical parasitological specimens means that we can provide a “gold standard”, which can overcome several problems encountered in quality control of diagnostic parasitology. Thus, the WMP may have an impact on the reliability of data, which constitute the basis for our understanding of the vast problem of neglected tropical diseases. The WMP can be used also in the absence of a fast Internet communication. An ordinary PC, or even a laptop, may function as a local image server, e.g., in health centers in tropical endemic areas.
Here, we describe a novel tool to observe parasites by virtual microscopy on the Internet. Microscopy-based identification of parasites is the basis for both diagnostics and epidemiological assessment of parasite burden globally. Yet, quality assessment of diagnostic parasitology laboratories is difficult, as delivering identical educational specimens has been impossible. In this study, a series of parasite specimens on ordinary glass slides were digitized using a recently developed microscope scanner technique. Up to 50,000 images captured at high magnification are digitally stitched together to form a representation of the entire glass slide. These “virtual slides” digitized at a thousand-fold magnification can hold more than 60 gigabytes of data. Handling such large amounts of data was made possible because of efficient compression techniques and a viewing system adopted from the geospatial imaging industry. Viewing the samples on the Internet very much resembles, for example, the use of Google Maps, and puts only modest requirements on the viewer's computer. In addition, we captured image stacks at different focal planes, and developed a web-based viewing system for three-dimensional navigation in the specimens. This novel technique is especially valuable for detailed visualization of large objects such as helminth eggs in stool specimens.
There are 600,000 new malaria cases daily worldwide. The gold standard for estimating the parasite burden and the corresponding severity of the disease consists in manually counting the number of parasites in blood smears through a microscope, a process that can take more than 20 minutes of an expert microscopist’s time.
This research tests the feasibility of a crowdsourced approach to malaria image analysis. In particular, we investigated whether anonymous volunteers with no prior experience would be able to count malaria parasites in digitized images of thick blood smears by playing a Web-based game.
The experimental system consisted of a Web-based game where online volunteers were tasked with detecting parasites in digitized blood sample images coupled with a decision algorithm that combined the analyses from several players to produce an improved collective detection outcome. Data were collected through the MalariaSpot website. Random images of thick blood films containing Plasmodium falciparum at medium to low parasitemias, acquired by conventional optical microscopy, were presented to players. In the game, players had to find and tag as many parasites as possible in 1 minute. In the event that players found all the parasites present in the image, they were presented with a new image. In order to combine the choices of different players into a single crowd decision, we implemented an image processing pipeline and a quorum algorithm that judged a parasite tagged when a group of players agreed on its position.
Over 1 month, anonymous players from 95 countries played more than 12,000 games and generated a database of more than 270,000 clicks on the test images. Results revealed that combining 22 games from nonexpert players achieved a parasite counting accuracy higher than 99%. This performance could be obtained also by combining 13 games from players trained for 1 minute. Exhaustive computations measured the parasite counting accuracy for all players as a function of the number of games considered and the experience of the players. In addition, we propose a mathematical equation that accurately models the collective parasite counting performance.
This research validates the online gaming approach for crowdsourced counting of malaria parasites in images of thick blood films. The findings support the conclusion that nonexperts are able to rapidly learn how to identify the typical features of malaria parasites in digitized thick blood samples and that combining the analyses of several users provides similar parasite counting accuracy rates as those of expert microscopists. This experiment illustrates the potential of the crowdsourced gaming approach for performing routine malaria parasite quantification, and more generally for solving biomedical image analysis problems, with future potential for telediagnosis related to global health challenges.
Crowdsourcing; Malaria; Image Analysis; Games for Health; Telepathology
Phage therapy is being reexamined as a strategy for bacterial control in medical and other environments. As microorganisms often live in mixed populations, we examined the effect of Escherichia coli bacteriophage λW60 and Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteriophage PB-1 infection on the viability of monoculture and mixed-species biofilm and planktonic cultures. In mixed-species biofilm communities, E. coli and P. aeruginosa maintained stable cell populations in the presence of one or both phages. In contrast, E. coli planktonic populations were severely depleted in coculture in the presence of λW60. Both E. coli and P. aeruginosa developed phage resistance in planktonic culture; however, reduced resistance was observed in biofilm communities. Increased phage titers and reduced resistance in biofilms suggest that phage can replicate on susceptible cells in biofilms. Infectious phage could be released from mixed-culture biofilms upon treatment with Tween 20 but not upon treatment with chloroform. Tween 20 and chloroform treatments had no effect on phage associated with planktonic cells, suggesting that planktonic phage were not cell or matrix associated. Transmission electron microscopy showed bacteriophage particles to be enmeshed in the extracellular polymeric substance component of biofilms and that this substance could be removed by Tween 20 treatment. Overall, this study demonstrates how mixed-culture biofilms can maintain a reservoir of viable phage and bacterial populations in the environment.
Phage therapy may become a complement to antibiotics in the treatment of chronic Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection. To design efficient therapeutic cocktails, the genetic diversity of the species and the spectrum of susceptibility to bacteriophages must be investigated. Bacterial strains showing high levels of phage resistance need to be identified in order to decipher the underlying mechanisms. Here we have selected genetically diverse P. aeruginosa strains from cystic fibrosis patients and tested their susceptibility to a large collection of phages. Based on plaque morphology and restriction profiles, six different phages were purified from “pyophage”, a commercial cocktail directed against five different bacterial species, including P. aeruginosa. Characterization of these phages by electron microscopy and sequencing of genome fragments showed that they belong to 4 different genera. Among 47 P. aeruginosa strains, 13 were not lysed by any of the isolated phages individually or by pyophage. We isolated two new phages that could lyse some of these strains, and their genomes were sequenced. The presence/absence of a CRISPR-Cas system (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats and Crisper associated genes) was investigated to evaluate the role of the system in phage resistance. Altogether, the results show that some P. aeruginosa strains cannot support the growth of any of the tested phages belonging to 5 different genera, and suggest that the CRISPR-Cas system is not a major defence mechanism against these lytic phages.
Thin-section electron micrographs of plasmolyzed Salmonella typhimurium infected with bacteriophage P22 demonstrated that phage adsorbed to cells over sites of inner- and outer-membrane contact. Efforts were made to isolate such adsorption sites by infection of cells with 35S- and 32P-labeled phage and by separation of the membranes on sucrose gradients. At 37 degrees C, about 75% of the 35S radioactivity could be recovered in a region of intermediate density between the inner and outer membranes. This region (phi band) did not contain 32P. The gradient profile was independent of the multiplicity of infection (between 0.2 and 50) and of the presence or absence of chloramphenicol, dinitrophenol, or cyanide. However, ethylenediaminetetraacetate, when present during the infection step, prevented the formation of phi band. The density of phi band was at least 1.30 g/cm3, as demonstrated by prolonged centrifugation on a D2O-sucrose gradient. phi Band was shown by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and electron microscopy to contain empty phage heads and contaminating cellular debris. In purified preparations, phage heads were the only structures, visible by negative staining, and very little cellular phospholipid or protein was associated with the phage proteins (less than 2% and 30% by weight, respectively, as determined by using [3H]glycerol or [3H]leucine). The residual cellular protein included all of the major outer-membrane proteins rather than any one specific protein. These results are interpreted as indicating that phi band probably does not contain adhesion site material stably associated with phage heads.
Modern light microscopes are highly evolved opto-electronic-mechanical devices. Establishing instrument performance is crucial in ensuring that reliable, accurate, and quantitative images can be acquired. Microscopists, as well as granting agencies, need to be confident that microscopy data will be consistent and quantifiable both temporally and from instrument to instrument. Last year, in phase-one of our world-wide research study on instrument performance, we successfully concentrated our efforts on three image-based tests: long and short term stability of illumination sources, uniformity of field illumination, and co-registration across various wavelengths. A manuscript summarizing the phase-one study has been submitted to and accepted by Microscopy & Microanalysis, one of the highest rated imaging journals. In the coming year, phase-two of our instrument performance study will focus on determining the following: the point spread function of an imaging system, the system's spectral separation ability and the spectral calibration and resolution of the detection system. As with the phase-one study, the goal of this study will be neither to compare the performance of different brands of instruments, nor to ascertain which brand had better performance in a given area. Instead, the goal of our proposed phase-two study is to continue to focus on determining the current state of modern imaging systems through straightforward, efficient and robust tests. These tests will aid microscopists in the early detection of system problems. Moreover, these tests will continue to help define relative standards that will assist both core personnel and microscopists in maintaining their instruments with the best possible operating conditions.
Only little information on a particular class of myoviruses, the SPO1-like bacteriophages infecting low-G+C-content, gram-positive host bacteria (Firmicutes), is available. We present the genome analysis and molecular characterization of the large, virulent, broad-host-range Listeria phage A511. A511 contains a unit (informational) genome of 134,494 bp, encompassing 190 putative open reading frames (ORFs) and 16 tRNA genes, organized in a modular fashion common among the Caudovirales. Electron microscopy, enzymatic fragmentation analyses, and sequencing revealed that the A511 DNA molecule contains linear terminal repeats of a total of 3,125 bp, encompassing nine small putative ORFs. This particular genome structure explains why A511 is unable to perform general transduction. A511 features significant sequence homologies to Listeria phage P100 and other morphologically related phages infecting Firmicutes such as Staphylococcus phage K and Lactobacillus phage LP65. Equivalent but more-extensive terminal repeats also exist in phages P100 (∼6 kb) and K (∼20 kb). High-resolution electron microscopy revealed, for the first time, the presence of long tail fibers organized in a sixfold symmetry in these viruses. Mass spectrometry-based peptide fingerprinting permitted assignment of individual proteins to A511 structural components. On the basis of the data available for A511 and relatives, we propose that SPO1-like myoviruses are characterized by (i) their infection of gram-positive, low-G+C-content bacteria; (ii) a wide host range within the host bacterial genus and a strictly virulent lifestyle; (iii) similar morphology, sequence relatedness, and collinearity of the phage genome organization; and (iv) large double-stranded DNA genomes featuring nonpermuted terminal repeats of various sizes.
Remote consultation though static telepathology, i.e. based on the delivery of still histology images, is one of the most interesting as well as discussed telemedicine fields, due to its suitability for an email implementation, and to the problem of the preliminary image sampling. Current scanning digital cameras can acquire digital images at very high resolutions that allow the acquisition of microscopic images at low optical magnification, decreasing the number of photographs necessary to represent a histology slide. A small number of images can be thus tiled to represent an entire biopsy, obtaining a visual representation that resembles that of light microscope. In this way, no real sampling is needed. The present paper discusses this approach in conjunction with the Internet Electronic mail.
The acquisition device: the images were acquired through a photoscanner, which incorporates a linear CCD chip, that slides onto the image field as in flatbed scanners. This allows for very high resolutions (up to 3400x2700 pixels) at a cost considerably lower than equivalent digital cameras, but with higher time for acquisition (1-2 minutes). This allows for the acquisition of low magnification large fields which at the same time contain as much detail as higher magnification fields. 20:1 JPEG compression has been adopted for reducing storage size. E-mail protocols and formats: MIME is a message format for heterogeneous, possibly encrypted and signed, multimedia e-mail still deliverable by the usual protocols, i.e. SMTP and POP. MIME is adequate for representing a static telepathology case composed of text data and a set of histology images. In our study, we used the Netscape Communicator 4.0 mail agent. Material: The study included two steps. The former involved the delivery of 31 cases acquired by a senior pathology resident, the latter 30 cases acquired by a physician with little pathology knowledge, both in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and e-mailed to Udine University for interpretation.
In the first step, twenty-eight cases (93.5%) were correctly diagnosed by telepathology. In the second step, two cases had insufficient images, and seventeen (60.7%) were correctly diagnosed by telepathology. Experiments in sending digitally signed and encrypted cases have been done, with some interoperability problem.
High-resolution digital photomicrography and the Internet offer useful tools for telepathology consultations. Our preliminary results show that the diagnostic accuracy decreases with the knowledge of the image sampler. This makes static telepathology more suitable for remote expert consultation than as a mean for primary diagnosis on material selected by a technician. Furthermore, this technology is probably best suited for the study of small specimens, such as biopsies. However, e-mail protocols provide for a range of features that, when used, makes its use highly valuable in telemedicine and telepathology.
Telemedicine; Remote Consultation; Telepathology; Internet; Electronic Mail
A description is given of quantitative methods using the electron microscope which can be applied to specimens with much smaller dimensions than those which can be used with the established cytochemical methods based on the use of the interference microscope and the techniques of ultraviolet and x-ray absorption. A discussion of electron scattering shows that under chosen operating conditions in the electron microscope the effective total mass-scattering coefficient S of a specimen is almost independent of its chemical composition. An order-of-magnitude agreement is observed at four accelerating voltages between experimental total scattering cross-sections for polystyrene and theoretical values for carbon. The contrast in a micrograph taken under standardised conditions is interpreted in terms of differences in specimen mass-thickness. The measurement of mass, thickness, and density of discrete particles and thin sections in the absence of sublimation is discussed in terms of relevant object models on the assumption of a constant, experimentally determined, value of S. The validity of the proposed methods was examined by measuring the masses of the heads of ram spermatozoa (about 7 x 10-12 gm.) and T2 bacteriophage (about 3 x 10-16 gm.) in the electron microscope. The values agreed reasonably well with those found by interference microscopy and sedimentation-diffusion measurements, respectively. Errors in S and magnification due to contamination and their effects on the results are considered in detail. An application of the methods to a typical electron microscope specimen was demonstrated by measuring the mass of heads of the T2 bacteriophage after staining with uranyl acetate. Errors of measurement are discussed and a minimal measurable mass estimated. Further applications of quantitative electron microscopy are proposed.
Antibiotics are used for disease therapeutic or preventative effects in humans and animals, as well as for enhanced feed conversion efficiency in livestock. Antibiotics can also cause undesirable effects in microbial populations, including selection for antibiotic resistance, enhanced pathogen invasion, and stimulation of horizontal gene transfer. Carbadox is a veterinary antibiotic used in the US during the starter phase of swine production for improved feed efficiency and control of swine dysentery and bacterial swine enteritis. Carbadox has been shown in vitro to induce phage-encoded Shiga toxin in Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) and a phage-like element transferring antibiotic resistance genes in Brachyspira hyodysenteriae, but the effect of carbadox on prophages in other bacteria is unknown. This study examined carbadox exposure on prophage induction and genetic transfer in Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, a human foodborne pathogen that frequently colonizes swine without causing disease. S. Typhimurium LT2 exposed to carbadox induced prophage production, resulting in bacterial cell lysis and release of virions that were visible by electron microscopy. Carbadox induction of phage-mediated gene transfer was confirmed by monitoring the transduction of a sodCIII::neo cassette in the Fels-1 prophage from LT2 to a recipient Salmonella strain. Furthermore, carbadox frequently induced generalized transducing phages in multidrug-resistant phage type DT104 and DT120 isolates, resulting in the transfer of chromosomal and plasmid DNA that included antibiotic resistance genes. Our research indicates that exposure of Salmonella to carbadox induces prophages that can transfer virulence and antibiotic resistance genes to susceptible bacterial hosts. Carbadox-induced, phage-mediated gene transfer could serve as a contributing factor in bacterial evolution during animal production, with prophages being a reservoir for bacterial fitness genes in the environment.
Salmonella; bacteriophage; antibiotic; carbadox; prophage; gene transfer; transduction
1. Osmotic shock disrupts particles of phage T2 into material containing nearly all the phage sulfur in a form precipitable by antiphage serum, and capable of specific adsorption to bacteria. It releases into solution nearly all the phage DNA in a form not precipitable by antiserum and not adsorbable to bacteria. The sulfur-containing protein of the phage particle evidently makes up a membrane that protects the phage DNA from DNase, comprises the sole or principal antigenic material, and is responsible for attachment of the virus to bacteria. 2. Adsorption of T2 to heat-killed bacteria, and heating or alternate freezing and thawing of infected cells, sensitize the DNA of the adsorbed phage to DNase. These treatments have little or no sensitizing effect on unadsorbed phage. Neither heating nor freezing and thawing releases the phage DNA from infected cells, although other cell constituents can be extracted by these methods. These facts suggest that the phage DNA forms part of an organized intracellular structure throughout the period of phage growth. 3. Adsorption of phage T2 to bacterial debris causes part of the phage DNA to appear in solution, leaving the phage sulfur attached to the debris. Another part of the phage DNA, corresponding roughly to the remaining half of the DNA of the inactivated phage, remains attached to the debris but can be separated from it by DNase. Phage T4 behaves similarly, although the two phages can be shown to attach to different combining sites. The inactivation of phage by bacterial debris is evidently accompanied by the rupture of the viral membrane. 4. Suspensions of infected cells agitated in a Waring blendor release 75 per cent of the phage sulfur and only 15 per cent of the phage phosphorus to the solution as a result of the applied shearing force. The cells remain capable of yielding phage progeny. 5. The facts stated show that most of the phage sulfur remains at the cell surface and most of the phage DNA enters the cell on infection. Whether sulfur-free material other than DNA enters the cell has not been determined. The properties of the sulfur-containing residue identify it as essentially unchanged membranes of the phage particles. All types of evidence show that the passage of phage DNA into the cell occurs in non-nutrient medium under conditions in which other known steps in viral growth do not occur. 6. The phage progeny yielded by bacteria infected with phage labeled with radioactive sulfur contain less than 1 per cent of the parental radioactivity. The progeny of phage particles labeled with radioactive phosphorus contain 30 per cent or more of the parental phosphorus. 7. Phage inactivated by dilute formaldehyde is capable of adsorbing to bacteria, but does not release its DNA to the cell. This shows that the interaction between phage and bacterium resulting in release of the phage DNA from its protective membrane depends on labile components of the phage particle. By contrast, the components of the bacterium essential to this interaction are remarkably stable. The nature of the interaction is otherwise unknown. 8. The sulfur-containing protein of resting phage particles is confined to a protective coat that is responsible for the adsorption to bacteria, and functions as an instrument for the injection of the phage DNA into the cell. This protein probably has no function in the growth of intracellular phage. The DNA has some function. Further chemical inferences should not be drawn from the experiments presented.
We investigated the amplification and purification of phage preparations with respect to titer, contamination level, stability, and technical affordability. Using various production systems (wave bags, stirred-tank reactors, and Erlenmeyer flasks), we obtained peak titers of 109 to 1010 PFU/ml for T4-like coliphages. Phage lysates could be sterilized through 0.22-μm membrane filters without titer loss. Phages concentrated by differential centrifugation were not contaminated with cellular debris or bacterial proteins, as assessed by electron microscopy and mass spectrometry, respectively. Titer losses occurred by high-speed pelleting of phages but could be decreased by sedimentation through a sucrose cushion. Alternative phage concentration methods are prolonged medium-speed centrifugation, strong anion-exchange chromatography, and ultrafiltration, but the latter still allowed elevated lipopolysaccharide contamination. T4-like phages could not be pasteurized but maintained their infectivity titer in the cold chain. In the presence of 10 mM magnesium ions, phages showed no loss of titer over 1 month at 30°C.
A new generalized transducing bacteriophage in the Escherichia coli system was isolated and characterized. This phage, designated D108, makes clear plaques on E. coli K-10, K-12, K-12(P1kc), K-12(D6), B/r, C, and 15 T−, and Shigella dysenteriae. The plaque of phage D108 is larger in size than that of phage P1kc. Electron-microscopic observation revealed that phages D108 and P1kc are morphologically different from each other, suggesting that phage D108 belongs to a phage group different from phage P1. The fact that all of the 10 markers tested were transduced by phage D108 indicates that this phage is a generalized transducing phage in the E. coli system. The transduction frequency by phage D108 of chromosomal markers and of a drug resistance factor (R factor) ranged from 2 × 10−6 to 3 × 10−8 and 3 × 10−9 to 6 × 10−10 per phage, respectively. The cotransduction frequency of the thr and leu markers was 2.8% for phage P1kc and 1.5% for phage D108. The CM and TC markers (chloramphenicol-resistant and tetracycline-resistant markers, respectively) of the R factor were not cotransduced by phage D108, but the markers were generally cotransduced by phage P1kc. The results suggest that the transducing particle of phage D108 contains a smaller amount of host deoxyribonucleic acid than does phage P1kc.
The hypervirulent Clostridium difficile ribotype 027 can be classified into subtypes, but it unknown if these differ in terms of severity of C. difficile infection (CDI). Genomic studies of C. difficile 027 strains have established that they are rich in mobile genetic elements including prophages. This study combined physiological studies, electron microscopy analysis and molecular biology to determine the potential role of temperate bacteriophages in disease and diversity of C. difficile 027.
We induced prophages from 91 clinical C. difficile 027 isolates and used transmission electron microscopy and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis to characterise the bacteriophages present. We established a correlation between phage morphology and subtype. Morphologically distinct tailed bacteriophages belonging to Myoviridae and Siphoviridae were identified in 63 and three isolates, respectively. Dual phage carriage was observed in four isolates. In addition, there were inducible phage tail-like particles (PT-LPs) in all isolates. The capacity of two antibiotics mitomycin C and norfloxacin to induce prophages was compared and it was shown that they induced specific prophages from C. difficile isolates. A PCR assay targeting the capsid gene of the myoviruses was designed to examine molecular diversity of C. difficile myoviruses. Phylogenetic analysis of the capsid gene sequences from eight ribotypes showed that all sequences found in the ribotype 027 isolates were identical and distinct from other C. difficile ribotypes and other bacteria species.
A diverse set of temperate bacteriophages are associated with C. difficile 027. The observed correlation between phage carriage and the subtypes suggests that temperate bacteriophages contribute to the diversity of C. difficile 027 and may play a role in severity of disease associated with this ribotype. The capsid gene can be used as a tool to identify C. difficile myoviruses present within bacterial genomes.