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1.  Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification Assays for Detecting Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli in Ground Beef and Human Stools 
Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), encompassing E. coli O157 and non-O157 STEC, is a significant cause of food-borne illnesses and deaths in the United States and worldwide. Shiga toxins (encoded by stx) and intimin (encoded by eae) are important virulence factors for STEC strains linked to severe human illnesses such as hemorrhagic colitis and hemolytic-uremic syndrome. In this study, the stx1, stx2, and eae genes were chosen as targets to design loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) assays for the rapid, specific, sensitive, and quantitative detection of STEC strains. The assay performances in pure culture and spiked ground beef and human stools were evaluated and compared with those of quantitative PCR (qPCR). No false-positive or false-negative results were observed among 90 bacterial strains used to evaluate assay specificity. The limits of detection for seven STEC strains of various serogroups (O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, O145, and O157) were approximately 1 to 20 CFU/reaction in pure culture and 103 to 104 CFU/g in spiked ground beef, which were comparable to the results of qPCR. Standard curves generated suggested good linear relationships between STEC cell numbers and LAMP turbidity signals. When applied in ground beef samples spiked with two low levels (1 to 2 and 10 to 20 CFU/25 g) of STEC cultures, the LAMP assays achieved accurate detection after 6 to 8 h enrichment. The assays also consistently detected STEC in human stool specimens spiked with 103 or 104 CFU/0.5 g stool after 4 h enrichment, while qPCR required 4 to 6 h. In conclusion, the LAMP assays developed in this study may facilitate rapid and reliable identification of STEC contaminations in high-risk food commodities and also facilitate prompt diagnosis of STEC infections in clinical laboratories.
PMCID: PMC3256711  PMID: 22031701
2.  Comparison of Three Different Methods for Detection of Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli in a Tertiary Pediatric Care Center 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2013;51(2):481-486.
Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) is a well-known cause of sporadic and epidemic food-borne gastroenteritis. A low infectious dose, approximately 10 microorganisms, is sufficient to cause disease that may lead to hemolytic-uremic syndrome. The objective of this study was to compare the performances of an in-house real-time PCR, a commercial enzyme immunoassay (EIA) (Premier EHEC; Meridian Bioscience), and culture on sorbitol MacConkey agar for the detection of STEC in a tertiary care pediatric hospital. Of 632 stool samples tested, 21 were positive for STEC. All were detected by PCR, 6 were detected by EIA, and only 5 O157 STEC isolates were identified by culture. Among the 15 specimens falsely negative by EIA, there were 9 Stx1, 2 Stx2, and 4 Stx1 and Stx2 STEC isolates. The latter group included 2 O157 STEC isolates that would have been missed if only EIA had been performed. To our knowledge, this is the first prospective study performed in a pediatric hospital which demonstrates the superiority of PCR over EIA for the detection of STEC. We conclude that PCR is specific and more sensitive than EIA. PCR should be considered for routine use in clinical settings where molecular detection facilities are available. Its lower limit of detection, equivalent to the infectious dose, is an obvious advantage for patient care and public health surveillance.
PMCID: PMC3553904  PMID: 23175264
3.  Development of a Multiplex PCR Assay for Detection of Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli, Enterohemorrhagic E. coli, and Enteropathogenic E. coli Strains 
Escherichia coli O157:H7 and other pathogenic E. coli strains are enteric pathogens associated with food safety threats and which remain a significant cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. In the current study, we investigated whether enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC), Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), and enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC) strains can be rapidly and specifically differentiated with multiplex PCR (mPCR) utilizing selected biomarkers associated with each strain’s respective virulence genotype. Primers were designed to amplify multiple intimin (eae) and long polar fimbriae (lpfA) variants, the bundle-forming pilus gene bfpA, and the Shiga toxin-encoding genes stx1 and stx2. We demonstrated consistent amplification of genes specific to the prototype EHEC O157:H7 EDL933 (lpfA1-3, lpfA2-2, stx1, stx2, and eae-γ) and EPEC O127:H6 E2348/69 (eae-α, lpfA1-1, and bfpA) strains using the optimized mPCR protocol with purified genomic DNA (gDNA). A screen of gDNA from isolates in a diarrheagenic E. coli collection revealed that the mPCR assay was successful in predicting the correct pathotype of EPEC and EHEC clones grouped in the distinctive phylogenetic disease clusters EPEC1 and EHEC1, and was able to differentiate EHEC1 from EHEC2 clusters. The assay detection threshold was 2 × 104 CFU per PCR reaction for EHEC and EPEC. mPCR was also used to screen Argentinean clinical samples from hemolytic uremic syndrome and diarrheal patients, resulting in 91% sensitivity and 84% specificity when compared to established molecular diagnostic procedures. In conclusion, our mPCR methodology permitted differentiation of EPEC, STEC and EHEC strains from other pathogenic E. coli; therefore, the assay becomes an additional tool for rapid diagnosis of these organisms.
PMCID: PMC3417533  PMID: 22919600
Shiga toxin-producing E. coli; enterohemorrhagic E. coli; enteropathogenic E. coli; E. coli O157; diagnostics
4.  Rapid and Sensitive Detection of Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli from Nonenriched Stool Specimens by Real-Time PCR in Comparison to Enzyme Immunoassay and Culture▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2009;47(7):2008-2012.
Shiga toxin (Stx)-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) bacteria are a frequent cause of food-borne gastroenteritis, hemorrhagic colitis, and hemolytic uremic syndrome. Because antimicrobial agents are generally contraindicated in patients infected with STEC, a sensitive and specific diagnostic test with rapid turnaround is essential. Current culture methods may fail to detect non-O157 STEC. We evaluated a Stx gene real-time PCR assay using hybridization probes and the LightCycler instrument with 204 prospectively collected stool specimens, which were also tested for Stx by enzyme immunoassay (EIA) (ProSpecT STEC; Remel, Lenexa, KS) and by culturing on chromogenic agar (Chromagar O157; BD BBL, Sparks, MD). In addition, 85 archived stool specimens previously tested for Stx (by EIA) and/or E. coli O157:H7 (by culture) were tested by PCR. Sample preparation for PCR included mixing the stool in sterile water and extraction of nucleic acid using the MagNA Pure LC instrument (Roche Diagnostics). The PCR assay had 100% sensitivity and specificity compared to EIA and culture for specimens collected prospectively (4 of 204 specimens were positive) and compared to culture and/or EIA for archival specimens (42 of 85 specimens were positive). Both the EIA and PCR produced positive results from a specimen containing an O103 serotype STEC in the prospective specimens, and the PCR test detected three positive specimens that contained nonviable STEC in the archived specimens. The PCR assay demonstrated 100% sensitivity and specificity compared to EIA and/or culture and more rapid turnaround than either EIA or culture.
PMCID: PMC2708480  PMID: 19439539
5.  Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli in the feces of Alberta feedlot cattle 
Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) are a public health concern. Bacterial culture techniques commonly used to detect E. coli O157:H7 will not detect other STEC serotypes. Feces from cattle and other animals are a source of O157:H7 and other pathogenic serotypes of STEC. The objective of this study was to estimate the pen-level prevalence of Shiga toxins and selected STEC serotypes in pre-slaughter feedlot cattle. Composite fecal samples were cultured and a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used to detect genes for Shiga toxins (stx1 and stx2) and genes for O157:H7, O111:H8, and O26:H11 serotypes. Evidence of Shiga toxins was found in 23 pens (92%), O157:H7 in 2 (8%), O111:H8 in 5 (20%), and O26:H11 in 20 (80%) of the 25 pens investigated. Although pen-level prevalence estimates for Shiga toxins and non-O157 serotypes seem high relative to O157:H7, further effort is required to determine the human health significance of non-O157 serotypes of STEC in feedlot cattle.
PMCID: PMC1142160  PMID: 15188961
6.  Antibiotic Resistance, Virulence Gene, and Molecular Profiles of Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli Isolates from Diverse Sources in Calcutta, India 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2002;40(6):2009-2015.
Antibiotic resistance, virulence gene, and molecular profiles of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) non-O157 strains isolated from human stool samples, cow stool samples, and beef samples over a period of 2 years in Calcutta, India, were determined. Resistance to one or more antibiotics was observed in 49.2% of the STEC strains, with some of the strains exhibiting multidrug resistance. The dominant combinations of virulence genes present in the strains studied were stx1 and stx2 (44.5% of strains) and stx1, stx2, and hlyA (enterohemorrhagic E. coli hemolysin gene) (19% of strains). Only 6.4% of the STEC strains harbored eae. The diversity of STEC strains from various sources was assessed by random amplification of polymorphic DNA (RAPD). STEC strains that gave identical or nearly similar DNA fingerprints in RAPD-PCR and had similar virulence genotypes were further characterized by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Identical RAPD and PFGE profiles were observed in four sets of strains, with each set comprising two strains. There was no match in the RAPD and PFGE profiles between strains of STEC isolated from cows and those isolated from humans. It appears that the clones present in bovine sources are not transmitted to humans in the Calcutta setting although these strains showed evolutionary relatedness. Maybe for this reason, STEC has still not become a major problem in India.
PMCID: PMC130831  PMID: 12037056
7.  Evaluation of Performance and Potential Clinical Impact of ProSpecT Shiga Toxin Escherichia coli Microplate Assay for Detection of Shiga Toxin-Producing E. coli in Stool Samples 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2004;42(4):1652-1656.
Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli bacteria (STEC) are emerging pathogens capable of producing sporadic and epidemic diarrhea, hemorrhagic colitis, and potentially life-threatening hemolytic-uremic syndrome. Although the presence of E. coli O157 can be readily detected in stool by sorbitol-MacConkey agar culture (SMAC), STEC non-O157 serotypes cannot. In contrast to culture, testing for the presence of Shiga toxins 1 and 2 in stool detects both O157 and non-O157 STEC serotypes capable of causing disease. Over two consecutive summers, we evaluated the performance of the ProSpecT Shiga toxin E. coli Microplate assay (Alexon-Trend, Ramsey, Minn.), an enzyme immunoassay for the detection of Shiga toxins 1 and 2, on all stools submitted for culture of enteric pathogens, and the potential clinical impact of Shiga toxin detection. Twenty-nine stool specimens were STEC positive by ProSpecT assay. Twenty-seven of 29 STEC-positive isolates were confirmed by SMAC and serotyping or by a second enzyme immunoassay and PCR (positive predictive value, 93%). Thirteen of 27 confirmed Shiga toxin-producing strains were serotype O157. The remaining 14 strains represented 8 other serotypes. The ProSpecT assay was 100% sensitive and specific for detection of E. coli O157 in stool (7 of 7) compared to SMAC. In addition, the ProSpecT assay detected twice as many STEC as SMAC. Fifty-two percent of confirmed STEC-positive stools were nonbloody. Thus, in our population, screening strategies that test only visibly bloody stools for STEC would miss a majority of cases. Eleven (41%) STEC-positive patients were hospitalized, and eight (30%) developed severe disease (two developed hemolytic-uremic syndrome, and six developed hemorrhagic colitis). Prior to detection of STEC infection, seven (26%) and eight patients (30%) underwent unnecessary diagnostic procedures or received potentially deleterious empirical treatment, respectively. We propose that establishing a specific diagnosis of STEC may have prevented these potentially harmful interventions. We conclude that the ProSpecT assay is sensitive and specific for the detection of Shiga toxins 1 and 2 in stool and has potentially significant clinical impact for the individual patient and public health. Shiga toxin assays should be considered for routine use in settings where prevalence of STEC disease warrants testing.
PMCID: PMC387566  PMID: 15071021
8.  Evaluation of the Duopath Verotoxin Test for Detection of Shiga Toxins in Cultures of Human Stools 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2003;41(6):2650-2653.
The Duopath Verotoxin test (Merck KgaA, Darmstadt, Germany) is a newly developed immunochromatographic test for the confirmation of Shiga toxin (Stx)-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains from food products. This test detects both Stx 1 (Stx1)-positive and Stx2-positive samples individually with the same device. By modification of the original protocol, the present study evaluated its performance and feasibility for clinical application with human stool samples, consisting of 41 frozen samples known to contain STEC isolates (O157:H7 and non-O157 serotypes) and 250 fresh specimens. The test specimens were polymyxin B extracts of colony sweeps taken from overnight sorbitol-MacConkey agar cultures of stools containing STEC isolates and other bacteria. All 41 frozen STEC-positive stool samples were positive by the Duopath Verotoxin test, as were 2 fresh stool samples with culture-confirmed STEC O157 infection. Thus, 100% sensitivity and no false-positive results were obtained when the Premier EHEC assay (Meridian Bioscience, Cincinnati, Ohio) was used as the “gold standard.” The Duopath Verotoxin test is simple to perform and easy to interpret, providing a turnaround time of 24 h. Despite its original intended use, the Duopath Verotoxin test has a great potential for clinical application.
PMCID: PMC156562  PMID: 12791895
9.  New Immuno-PCR Assay for Detection of Low Concentrations of Shiga Toxin 2 and Its Variants▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2008;46(4):1292-1297.
Shiga toxin (Stx)-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains secrete toxins that are major virulence factors and diagnostic targets, but some STEC strains secrete Stx in amounts that cannot be detected using conventional cell cytotoxicity or immunological assays. Therefore, there is an urgent need for more-sensitive Stx detection methods. We describe the development of an assay that can detect low concentrations of Stx2 and its variants. An immuno-PCR Stx2 assay was developed based on an enzyme immunoassay (EIA) combining antibody capture and DNA amplification to increase the signal. The immuno-PCR assay detected 10 pg/ml of purified Stx2, compared to 1 ng/ml Stx2 detected by commercial EIA. Consequently, immuno-PCR detected Stx2 and its variants in STEC strains that produce the toxins at levels that are nondetectable by using the EIA, as well as the Stx2 in EIA-negative enriched stool cultures from patients. Our data demonstrate that the immuno-PCR developed here is a highly sensitive and specific method for the detection of trace amounts of Stx2 and Stx2 variants. It is therefore suitable for use by clinical microbiological laboratories to improve the toxin detection in clinical samples.
PMCID: PMC2292924  PMID: 18272709
10.  Rapid and Specific Detection of Escherichia coli Serogroups O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, O145, and O157 in Ground Beef, Beef Trim, and Produce by Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification 
Escherichia coli O157 and six additional serogroups of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) (O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, and O145) account for the majority of STEC infections in the United States. In this study, O serogroup-specific genes (wzx or wzy) were used to design loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) assays for the rapid and specific detection of these leading STEC serogroups. The assays were evaluated in pure culture and spiked food samples (ground beef, beef trim, lettuce, and spinach) and compared with real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR). No false-positive or false-negative results were observed among 120 bacterial strains used to evaluate assay specificity. The limits of detection of various STEC strains belonging to these target serogroups were approximately 1 to 20 CFU/reaction mixture in pure culture and 103 to 104 CFU/g in spiked food samples, which were comparable to those of qPCR. Standard curves generated suggested good linear relationships between STEC cell numbers and LAMP turbidity signals. In various beef and produce samples spiked with two low levels (1 to 2 and 10 to 20 CFU/25 g) of respective STEC strains, the LAMP assays consistently achieved accurate detection after 6 to 8 h of enrichment. In conclusion, these newly developed LAMP assays may facilitate rapid and reliable detection of the seven major STEC serogroups in ground beef, beef trim, and produce during routine sample testing.
PMCID: PMC3318793  PMID: 22327594
11.  Detection of Chlamydia trachomatis by Isothermal Ramification Amplification Method: a Feasibility Study 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2002;40(1):128-132.
Chlamydia trachomatis is the leading cause of sexually transmitted disease in the United States. Effective screening for this agent can facilitate prompt treatment and prevent its sequelae. The recent introduction of liquid-based cytology has made possible the simultaneous screening of cervical intraepithelial lesions and detection of C. trachomatis in a single collection vial. In this study we determined whether cytological fluid could support DNA-based amplification for the detection of C. trachomatis. Three methods were compared, including ramification amplification (RAM), real-time PCR with molecular beacon, and Abbott’s ligase chain reaction (LCx). RAM is a novel, recently introduced, isothermal DNA amplification technique that utilizes a circular probe for target detection and achieves exponential amplification through the mechanism of primer extension, strand displacement, and ramification. Our results show that RAM can detect as few as 10 C. trachomatis elementary bodies in less than 2 h, comparable to results with real-time PCR. Thirty clinical specimens collected in PreservCyt solution were tested by LCx, real-time PCR, and RAM. Among 30 specimens, 15 were positive by PCR and LCx and 14 were positive by RAM. One specimen missed by RAM had an inadequate amount of residual cellular material. Our results show that nucleic acid amplification methods can serve to detect C. trachomatis and presumably other sexually transmitted agents in cytological fluid and that the RAM assay can be an alternative to PCR and LCx because of its simplicity and isothermal amplification.
PMCID: PMC120135  PMID: 11773105
12.  Identification of Escherichia coli O157 by Using a Novel Colorimetric Detection Method with DNA Microarrays 
Foodborne Pathogens and Disease  2011;8(6):705-711.
Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli O157 is a leading cause of foodborne illness worldwide. To evaluate better methods to rapidly detect and genotype E. coli O157 strains, the present study evaluated the use of ampliPHOX, a novel colorimetric detection method based on photopolymerization, for pathogen identification with DNA microarrays. A low-density DNA oligonucleotide microarray was designed to target stx1 and stx2 genes encoding Shiga toxin production, the eae gene coding for adherence membrane protein, and the per gene encoding the O157-antigen perosamine synthetase. Results from the validation experiments demonstrated that the use of ampliPHOX allowed the accurate genotyping of the tested E. coli strains, and positive hybridization signals were observed for only probes targeting virulence genes present in the reference strains. Quantification showed that the average signal-to-noise ratio values ranged from 47.73 ± 7.12 to 76.71 ± 8.33, whereas average signal-to-noise ratio values below 2.5 were determined for probes where no polymer was formed due to lack of specific hybridization. Sensitivity tests demonstrated that the sensitivity threshold for E. coli O157 detection was 100–1000 CFU/mL. Thus, the use of DNA microarrays in combination with photopolymerization allowed the rapid and accurate genotyping of E. coli O157 strains.
PMCID: PMC3122933  PMID: 21288130
13.  Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli in Children: Diagnosis and Clinical Manifestations of O157:H7 and Non-O157:H7 Infection▿ 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2011;49(3):955-959.
Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), a cause of food-borne colitis and hemolytic-uremic syndrome in children, can be serotype O157:H7 (O157) or other serotypes (non-O157). E. coli O157 can be detected by culture with sorbitol-MacConkey agar (SMAC), but non-O157 STEC cannot be detected with this medium. Both O157 and non-O157 STEC can be detected by immunoassay for Shiga toxins 1 and 2. The objectives of this study were first to compare the diagnostic utility of SMAC to that of the Premier EHEC enzyme immunoassay (Meridian Diagnostics) for detection of STEC in children and second to compare the clinical and laboratory characteristics of children with serotype O157:H7 STEC and non-O157:H7 STEC infections. Stool samples submitted for testing for STEC between April 2004 and September 2009 were tested by both SMAC culture and the Premier EHEC assay at Children's Hospital Boston. Samples positive by either test were sent for confirmatory testing and serotyping at the Hinton State Laboratory Institute (HSLI). Chart review was performed on children with confirmed STEC infection. Of 5,110 children tested for STEC, 50 (0.9%) had STEC infection confirmed by culture; 33 were O157:H7 and 17 were non-O157:H7. The Premier EHEC assay and SMAC culture detected 96.0% and 58.0% of culture-confirmed STEC isolates (any serotype), respectively, and 93.9% and 87.9% of STEC O157:H7 isolates, respectively. There were no significant differences in disease severity or laboratory manifestations of STEC infection between children with O157:H7 and those with non-O157 STEC. The Premier EHEC assay was significantly more sensitive than SMAC culture for diagnosis of STEC, and O157:H7 and non-O157:H7 STEC caused infections of similar severity in children.
PMCID: PMC3067718  PMID: 21177902
14.  Detection of Escherichia coli O157 by Peptide Nucleic Acid Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization (PNA-FISH) and Comparison to a Standard Culture Method 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2013;79(20):6293-6300.
Despite the emergence of non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) infections, E. coli serotype O157 is still the most commonly identified STEC in the world. It causes high morbidity and mortality and has been responsible for a number of outbreaks in many parts of the world. Various methods have been developed to detect this particular serotype, but standard bacteriological methods remain the gold standard. Here, we propose a new peptide nucleic acid fluorescence in situ hybridization (PNA-FISH) method for the rapid detection of E. coli O157. Testing on 54 representative strains showed that the PNA probe is highly sensitive and specific to E. coli O157. The method then was optimized for detection in food samples. Ground beef and unpasteurized milk samples were artificially contaminated with E. coli O157 concentrations ranging from 1 × 10−2 to 1 × 102 CFU per 25 g or ml of food. Samples were then preenriched and analyzed by both the traditional bacteriological method (ISO 16654:2001) and PNA-FISH. The PNA-FISH method performed well in both types of food matrices with a detection limit of 1 CFU/25 g or ml of food samples. Tests on 60 food samples have shown a specificity value of 100% (95% confidence interval [CI], 82.83 to 100), a sensitivity of 97.22% (95% CI, 83.79 to 99.85%), and an accuracy of 98.33% (CI 95%, 83.41 to 99.91%). Results indicate that PNA-FISH performed as well as the traditional culture methods and can reduce the diagnosis time to 1 day.
PMCID: PMC3811206  PMID: 23934486
15.  Should All Stools Be Screened for Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli?▿ 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2011;49(7):2390-2397.
In October 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that clinical laboratories test all stools submitted for the detection of enteric bacterial pathogens for the presence of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC). In order to do this, it is recommended that all stools be cultured for Escherichia coli O157:H7 on selective medium as well as that testing for the presence of Shiga toxin be done by immunoassay to detect non-O157 STEC (3). There are a variety of products that are FDA approved for detection of Shiga toxin. Further, it is recommended that Shiga toxin detection be done by testing overnight enrichment broth cultures of stools rather than directly examining stools for this toxin. This recommendation was made approximately 18 months ago. We have asked Mario Marcon of Nationwide's Children Hospital in Columbus, OH, to explain the rationale for his decision to follow this recommendation, while we have asked Deanna Kiska and Scott Riddell of Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, NY, why these guidelines have not been adopted by their laboratory.
PMCID: PMC3147825  PMID: 21543568
16.  Prevalence and Characterization of Non-O157 Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli Isolates from Commercial Ground Beef in the United States▿ †  
Escherichia coli O157:H7 is a Shiga toxin (stx)-producing E. coli (STEC) strain that has been classified as an adulterant in U.S. beef. However, numerous other non-O157 STEC strains are associated with diseases of various severities and have become an increasing concern to the beef industry, regulatory officials, and the public. This study reports on the prevalence and characterization of non-O157 STEC in commercial ground beef samples (n = 4,133) obtained from numerous manufacturers across the United States over a period of 24 months. All samples were screened by DNA amplification for the presence of Shiga toxin genes, which were present in 1,006 (24.3%) of the samples. Then, culture isolation of an STEC isolate from all samples that contained stx1 and/or stx2 was attempted. Of the 1,006 positive ground beef samples screened for stx, 300 (7.3% of the total of 4,133) were confirmed to have at least one strain of STEC present by culture isolation. In total, 338 unique STEC isolates were recovered from the 300 samples that yielded an STEC isolate. All unique STEC isolates were serotyped and were characterized for the presence of known virulence factors. These included Shiga toxin subtypes, intimin subtypes, and accessory virulence factors related to adherence (saa, iha, lifA), toxicity (cnf, subA, astA), iron acquisition (chuA), and the presence of the large 60-MDa virulence plasmid (espP, etpD, toxB, katP, toxB). The isolates were also characterized by use of a pathogenicity molecular risk assessment (MRA; based on the presence of various O-island nle genes). Results of this characterization identified 10 STEC isolates (0.24% of the 4,133 total) that may be considered a significant food safety threat, defined by the presence of eae, subA, and nle genes.
PMCID: PMC3067332  PMID: 21257806
17.  Molecular Analysis of Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli Strains Isolated from Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome Patients and Dairy Samples in France▿  
Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) has been associated with food-borne diseases ranging from uncomplicated diarrhea to hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). While most outbreaks are associated with E. coli O157:H7, about half of the sporadic cases may be due to non-O157:H7 serotypes. To assess the pathogenicity of STEC isolated from dairy foods in France, 40 strains isolated from 1,130 raw-milk and cheese samples were compared with 15 STEC strains isolated from patients suffering from severe disease. The presence of genes encoding Shiga toxins (stx1, stx2, and variants), intimin (eae and variants), adhesins (bfp, efa1), enterohemolysin (ehxA), serine protease (espP), and catalase-peroxidase (katP) was determined by PCR and/or hybridization. Plasmid profiling, ribotyping, and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) were used to further compare the strains at the molecular level. A new stx2 variant, stx2-CH013, associated with an O91:H10 clinical isolate was identified. The presence of the stx2, eae, and katP genes, together with a combination of several stx2 variants, was clearly associated with human-pathogenic strains. In contrast, dairy food STEC strains were characterized by a predominance of stx1, with a minority of isolates harboring eae, espP, and/or katP. These associations may help to differentiate less virulent STEC strains from those more likely to cause disease in humans. Only one dairy O5 isolate had a virulence gene panel identical to that of an HUS-associated strain. However, the ribotype and PFGE profiles were not identical. In conclusion, most STEC strains isolated from dairy products in France showed characteristics different from those of strains isolated from patients.
PMCID: PMC2292610  PMID: 18245246
18.  An Automated Fluorescent PCR Method for Detection of Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli in Foods 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  1998;64(11):4210-4216.
An automated fluorescence-based PCR system (a model AG-9600 AmpliSensor analyzer) was investigated to determine whether it could detect Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC). The AmpliSensor PCR assay involves amplification-mediated disruption of a fluorogenic DNA signal duplex (AmpliSensor) that is homologous to conserved target sequences in a 323-bp amplified fragment of Shiga toxin genes stx1, stx2, and stxe. Using the Amplisensor assay, we detected 113 strains of STEC belonging to 50 different serotypes, while 18 strains of non-Shiga-toxin-producing E. coli and 68 strains of other bacteria were not detected. The detection limits of the assay were less than 1 to 5 CFU per PCR mixture when pure cultures of five reference strains were used and 3 CFU per 25 g of food when spiked ground beef samples that were preenriched overnight were used. The performance of the assay was also evaluated by using 53 naturally contaminated meat samples and 48 raw milk samples. Thirty-two STEC-positive samples that were confirmed to be positive by the culture assay were found to be positive when the AmpliSensor assay was used. Nine samples that were found to be positive when the PCR assay was used were culture negative. The system described here is an automated PCR-based system that can be used for detection of all serotypes of STEC in food or clinical samples.
PMCID: PMC106629  PMID: 9797267
19.  Bacteriophage 2851 Is a Prototype Phage for Dissemination of the Shiga Toxin Variant Gene 2c in Escherichia coli O157:H7▿ †  
Infection and Immunity  2008;76(12):5466-5477.
The production of Shiga toxin (Stx) (verocytotoxin) is a major virulence factor of Escherichia coli O157:H7 strains (Shiga toxin-producing E. coli [STEC] O157). Two types of Shiga toxins, designated Stx1 and Stx2, are produced in STEC O157. Variants of the Stx2 type (Stx2, Stx2c) are associated with high virulences of these strains for humans. A bacteriophage designated 2851 from a human STEC O157 encoding the Stx2c variant was described previously. Nucleotide sequence analysis of the phage 2851 genome revealed 75 predicted coding sequences and indicated a mosaic structure typical for lambdoid phages. Analyses of free phages and K-12 phage 2851 lysogens revealed that upon excision from the bacterial chromosome, the loss of a phage-encoded IS629 element leads to fusion of phage antA and antB genes, with the generation of a recombined antAB gene encoding a strong antirepressor. In wild-type E. coli O157 as well as in K-12 strains, phage 2851 was found to be integrated in the sbcB locus. Additionally, phage 2851 carries an open reading frame which encodes an OspB-like type III effector similar to that found in Shigella spp. Investigation of 39 stx2c E. coli O157 strains revealed that all except 1 were positive for most phage 2851-specific genes and possessed a prophage with the same border sequences integrated into the sbcB locus. Phage 2851-specific sequences were absent from most stx2c-negative E. coli O157 strains, and we suggest that phage 2851-like phages contributed significantly to the dissemination of the Stx2c variant toxin within this group of E. coli.
PMCID: PMC2583581  PMID: 18824528
20.  Antibody Response to Shiga Toxins Stx2 and Stx1 in Children with Enteropathic Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2001;39(6):2272-2279.
A Western blot (immunoblot) assay (WBA) for the detection of immunoglobulin G antibodies to Shiga toxins Stx2 and Stx1 in sera from 110 patients with enteropathic hemolytic-uremic syndrome (53 culture confirmed to have Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli [STEC] infection) and 110 age-matched controls was established by using a chemiluminescence detection system. Thirty-nine (74%) of the 53 culture-confirmed cases were infections with STEC serotype O157, and 14 (26%) were associated with infection by other STEC serotypes. The frequency of an anti-Stx2 response following infection by a Stx2-producing strain (34 of 48 cases; 71%) was higher than that of an anti-Stx1 response following Stx1-producing STEC infection (4 of 10). Furthermore, the frequency of an anti-Stx2 response in 110 control sera (10%) was significantly higher than the frequency of an anti-Stx1 response (1.8%) (P = 0.0325). For STEC O157 culture-confirmed cases WBA for toxin detection had a diagnostic sensitivity of 71% and a specificity of 90%. Because of its high specificity the assay might be a helpful tool for diagnosing suspected STEC infection when tests of stool samples or serological tests against various lipopolysaccharide antigens are negative. Furthermore, the prevalence of anti-Stx antibodies in healthy controls probably reflects the population immunity to systemic Stx-associated disease. It can thus serve as a basis for comparing immunity levels in different populations and for considering future Stx toxoid immunization strategies.
PMCID: PMC88123  PMID: 11376069
21.  Serotypes and Virulence Profiles of Non-O157 Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli Isolates from Bovine Farms▿ 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2011;77(24):8662-8668.
Non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains are clinically significant food-borne pathogens. However, there is a dearth of information on serotype prevalence and virulence gene distribution, data essential for the development of public health protection monitoring and control activities for the meat and dairy industries. Thus, the objective of this study was to examine the prevalence of non-O157 STEC on beef and dairy farms and to characterize the isolates in terms of serotype and virulence markers. Bovine fecal samples (n = 1,200) and farm soil samples (n = 600) were collected from 20 farms throughout Ireland over a 12-month period. Shiga toxin-positive samples were cultured and colonies examined for the presence of stx1 and/or stx2 genes by PCR. Positive isolates were serotyped and examined for a range of virulence factors, including eaeA, hlyA, tir, espA, espB, katP, espP, etpD, saa, sab, toxB, iha, lpfAO157/OI-141, lpfAO113, and lpfAO157/OI-154. Shiga toxin and intimin genes were further examined for known variants. Significant numbers of fecal (40%) and soil (27%) samples were stx positive, with a surge observed in late summer-early autumn. One hundred seven STEC isolates were recovered, representing 17 serotypes. O26:H11 and O145:H28 were the most clinically significant, with O113:H4 being the most frequently isolated. However, O2:H27, O13/O15:H2, and ONT:H27 also carried stx1 and/or stx2 and eaeA and may be emerging pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3233096  PMID: 22003024
22.  Towards a Pathogenic Escherichia coli Detection Platform Using Multiplex SYBR®Green Real-Time PCR Methods and High Resolution Melting Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39287.
Escherichia coli is a group of bacteria which has raised a lot of safety concerns in recent years. Five major intestinal pathogenic groups have been recognized amongst which the verocytotoxin or shiga-toxin (stx1 and/or stx2) producing E. coli (VTEC or STEC respectively) have received a lot of attention recently. Indeed, due to the high number of outbreaks related to VTEC strains, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has requested the monitoring of the “top-five” serogroups (O26, O103, O111, O145 and O157) most often encountered in food borne diseases and addressed the need for validated VTEC detection methods. Here we report the development of a set of intercalating dye Real-time PCR methods capable of rapidly detecting the presence of the toxin genes together with intimin (eae) in the case of VTEC, or aggregative protein (aggR), in the case of the O104:H4 strain responsible for the outbreak in Germany in 2011. All reactions were optimized to perform at the same annealing temperature permitting the multiplex application in order to minimize the need of material and to allow for high-throughput analysis. In addition, High Resolution Melting (HRM) analysis allowing the discrimination among strains possessing similar virulence traits was established. The development, application to food samples and the flexibility in use of the methods are thoroughly discussed. Together, these Real-time PCR methods facilitate the detection of VTEC in a new highly efficient way and could represent the basis for developing a simple pathogenic E. coli platform.
PMCID: PMC3382608  PMID: 22761753
23.  Distribution of Virulence Genes and Their Association of Serotypes in Pathogenic Escherichia coli Isolates From Diarrheal Patients in Korea 
To characterise the genetic and serological diversity of pathogenic Escherichia coli, we tested 111 E coli strains isolated from diarrhoeal patients in Korea between 2003 and 2006.
The isolates were tested through polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and slide agglutination method for the detection of virulence genes and serotypes, respectively. To compare the expression of Shiga toxin (stx)-1 and stx2 genes, real-time quantitative reverse-transcriptase PCR and rapid exprssion assay, reversed-passive latex agglutination, were performed.
Forty-nine Shiga toxin-producing E coli (STEC) strains and 62 non-STEC strains, including 20 enteropathogenic E coli, 20 enterotoxigenic E coli, 20 enteroaggregative E coli, and 2 enteroinvasive E coli were randomly chosen from the strains isolated from diarrhoeal patients in Korea between 2003 and 2006. PCR analysis indicated that locus of enterocyte effacement pathogenicity island, that is, eaeA, espADB, and tir genes were present in STEC, enteropathogenic E coli, and enteroinvasive E coli. Quorum sensing-related gene luxS was detected in most of pathogenic E coli strains. Major serotypes of the STEC strains were O157 (26%) and O26 (20%), whereas the non-STEC strains possessed various serotypes. Especially, all the strains with serotype O157 carried stx2 and the tested virulence factors. Of the STEC strains, the data of real-time quantitative reverse-transcriptase PCR and reversed-passive latex agglutination tests showed that messenger RNA- and protein expression of stx2 gene were higher than those of stx1 gene.
Our results provide the epidemiological information regarding the trend of STEC and non-STEC infections in the general population and show the fundamental data in association of serotypes with virulence genes in diarrhoeagenic E coli strains from Korea.
PMCID: PMC3766895  PMID: 24159437
diarrhoeal patients; pathogenic Escherichia coli; serotypes; virulence factors
24.  Prevalence and distribution of the stx1, stx2 genes in Shiga toxin producing E. coli (STEC) isolates from cattle 
Background and Objectives
Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains are human pathogens linked to hemorrhagic colitis and hemolytic uremic syndrome. Shiga toxins (Stx1 and Stx2) are the major virulence factors of these strains. The aim of this work was to study the prevalence and distribution of stx 1 and stx 2 gene in E. coli O157:H7 and non-O157:H7 strains isolated from cattle in Shiraz, Iran.
Materials and Methods
Four hundred and twenty samples consisted of recto-anal mucosal swabs were collected from cattle. They were checked for the presence of the stx1 and stx2 gene using multiplex-PCR every 1 week over a 1-year period (2007-2008).
A total of 146 strains carrying the stx1 and stx2 gene were isolated from 51 (12.14%) cattle. Overall, 15 (3.57%) were identified as O157:H7 and 131 (31.19%) revealed to be non-O157:H7. Both stx2 and stx1 genes were detected in 51 (34.93%) STEC isolates. Genotypes stx1 and stx2 were detected in 15 (10.27%) and 78 (53.42%) respectively. Seasonal distribution of stx genes revealed high percentage of positive animals in warm seasons. The gene sequence similarity ranged from 94 to 100%.
Frequency of stx1 and stx2 in animals and its relation to human disease is not well understood in Iran. The high prevalence of STEC in cattle seems to parallel that which is usually observed in warm seasons and it also parallels occurrence of human STEC. The higher prevalence of the stx2 gene than stx1 in strain populations isolated from cattle indicates a risk alert of E. coli O157:H7 being shed by cattle in these populations. Appropriate measures are now needed to prevent the spread of this life-threatening foodborne disease in our country.
PMCID: PMC3279763  PMID: 22347544
STEC; stx1; stx2; cattle; Iran
25.  Localization of the Insertion Site and Pathotype Determination of the Locus of Enterocyte Effacement of Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli Strains 
Of 220 Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains collected in central France from healthy cattle, food samples, and asymptomatic children, 12 possessed the eae gene included in the locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE) pathogenicity island. Based on gene typing, we observed 7 different eae espA espB tir pathotypes among the 12 STEC strains and described the new espAβv variant. As previously observed, the O157 serogroup is associated with eaeγ, O26 is associated with eaeβ, and O103 is associated with eaeɛ. However, the unexpected eaeζ allele was detected in 5 of the 12 isolates. PCR amplification and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis using the I-CeuI endonuclease followed by Southern hybridization indicated that the LEE was inserted in the vicinity of the selC (three isolates), pheU (two isolates), or pheV (six isolates) tRNA gene. Six isolates harbored two or three of these tRNA loci altered by the insertion of integrase genes (CP4-int and/or int-phe), suggesting the insertion of additional foreign DNA fragments at these sites. In spite of great genetic diversity of LEE pathotypes and LEE insertion sites, bovine strains harbor alleles of LEE genes that are frequently found in clinical STEC strains isolated from outbreaks and sporadic cases around the world, underscoring the potential risk of the bovine strains on human health.
PMCID: PMC321293  PMID: 14711626

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