A cocktail of six lytic bacteriophages, SalmoFresh™, significantly (p < 0.05) reduced the number of surface-applied Salmonella Kentucky and Brandenburg from stainless steel and glass surfaces by > 99% (2.1–4.3 log). Both strains were susceptible to SalmoFresh™ in the spot-test assay. Conversely, SalmoFresh™ was unable to reduce surface contamination with a Salmonella Paratyphi B strain that was not susceptible to the phage cocktail in the spot-test assay. However, by replacing two SalmoFresh™ component phages with two new phages capable of lysing the Paratyphi B strain in the spot-test assay, the target range of the cocktail was shifted to include the Salmonella Paratyphi B strain. The modified cocktail, SalmoLyse™, was able to significantly (p < 0.05) reduce surface contamination of the Paratyphi B strain by > 99% (2.1–4.1 log). The data show that both phage cocktails were effective in significantly reducing the levels of Salmonella on hard surfaces, provided the contaminating strains were susceptible in the spot-test (i.e., spot-test susceptibility was indicative of efficacy in subsequent surface decontamination studies). The data also support the concept that phage preparations can be customized to meet the desired antibacterial application.
Salmonella; SalmoFresh™; SalmoLyse™; bacteriophage; food safety; phage; surface decontamination
The effect of a bacteriophage cocktail (EcoShield™) that is specific against Escherichia coli O157:H7 was evaluated against a nalidixic acid-resistant enterohemorrhagic E. coli O157:H7 RM4407 (EHEC) strain on leafy greens stored under either (1) ambient air or (2) modified atmosphere (MA; 5% O2/35% CO2/60% N2). Pieces (~2 × 2 cm2) of leafy greens (lettuce and spinach) inoculated with 4.5 log CFU/cm2 EHEC were sprayed with EcoShield™ (6.5 log PFU/cm2). Samples were stored at 4 or 10°C for up to 15 d. On spinach, the level of EHEC declined by 2.38 and 2.49 log CFU/cm2 at 4 and 10°C, respectively, 30 min after phage application (p ≤ 0.05). EcoShield™ was also effective in reducing EHEC on the surface of green leaf lettuce stored at 4°C by 2.49 and 3.28 log units in 30 min and 2 h, respectively (p ≤ 0.05).
At 4°C under atmospheric air, the phage cocktail significantly (p ≤ 0.05) lowered the EHEC counts in one day by 1.19, 3.21 and 3.25 log CFU/cm2 on spinach, green leaf and romaine lettuce, respectively compared with control (no bacteriophage) treatments. When stored under MA at 4°C, phages reduced (p ≤ 0.05) EHEC populations by 2.18, 3.50 and 3.13 log CFU/cm2, on spinach, green leaf and romaine lettuce. At 10°C, EHEC reductions under atmospheric air storage were 1.99, 3.90 and 3.99 log CFU/cm2 (p ≤ 0.05), while population reductions under MA were 3.08, 3.89 and 4.34 logs on spinach, green leaf and romaine lettuce, respectively, compared with controls (p ≤ 0.05). The results of this study showed that bacteriophages were effective in reducing the levels of E. coli O157:H7 on fresh leafy produce, and that the reduction was further improved when produce was stored under the MA conditions.
E. coli O157:H7; bacteriophage; modified atmosphere packaging; MAP; leafy green
Five Y. pestis bacteriophages obtained from various sources were characterized to determine their biological properties, including their taxonomic classification, host range and genomic diversity. Four of the phages (YpP-G, Y, R and YpsP-G) belong to the Podoviridae family, and the fifth phage (YpsP-PST) belongs to the Myoviridae family, of the order Caudovirales comprising of double-stranded DNA phages. The genomes of the four Podoviridae phages were fully sequenced and found to be almost identical to each other and to those of two previously characterized Y. pestis phages Yepe2 and φA1122. However, despite their genomic homogeneity, they varied in their ability to lyse Y. pestis and Y. pseudotuberculosis strains. The five phages were combined to yield a “phage cocktail” (tentatively designated “YPP-100”) capable of lysing the 59 Y. pestis strains in our collection. YPP-100 was examined for its ability to decontaminate three different hard surfaces (glass, gypsum board and stainless steel) experimentally contaminated with a mixture of three genetically diverse Y. pestis strains CO92, KIM and 1670G. Five minutes of exposure to YPP-100 preparations containing phage concentrations of ca. 109, 108 and 107 PFU/mL completely eliminated all viable Y. pestis cells from all three surfaces, but a few viable cells were recovered from the stainless steel coupons treated with YPP-100 diluted to contain ca. 106 PFU/mL. However, even that highly diluted preparation significantly (p = < 0.05) reduced Y. pestis levels by ≥ 99.97%. Our data support the idea that Y. pestis phages may be useful for decontaminating various hard surfaces naturally- or intentionally-contaminated with Y. pestis.
bacteriophage; phage; Yersinia pestis; surface decontamination
Foods contaminated with Escherichia coli O157:H7 cause more than 63,000 foodborne illnesses in the United States every year, resulting in a significant economic impact on medical costs and product liabilities. Efforts to reduce contamination with E. coli O157:H7 have largely focused on washing, application of various antibacterial chemicals, and gamma-irradiation, each of which has practical and environmental drawbacks. A relatively recent, environmentally-friendly approach proposed for eliminating or significantly reducing E. coli O157:H7 contamination of foods is the use of lytic bacteriophages as biocontrol agents. We found that EcoShield™, a commercially available preparation composed of three lytic bacteriophages specific for E. coli O157:H7, significantly (p < 0.05) reduced the levels of the bacterium in experimentally contaminated beef by ≥ 94% and in lettuce by 87% after a five minute contact time. The reduced levels of bacteria were maintained for at least one week at refrigerated temperatures. However, the one-time application of EcoShield™ did not protect the foods from recontamination with E. coli O157:H7. Our results demonstrate that EcoShield™ is effective in significantly reducing contamination of beef and lettuce with E. coli O157:H7, but does not protect against potential later contamination due to, for example, unsanitary handling of the foods post processing.
EcoShield™; Escherichia coli O157:H7; bacteriophage; beef; food safety; genomics; ground beef; lettuce; phage; phylogeny
Bacteriophages are increasingly being utilized and considered for various practical applications, ranging from decontaminating foods and inanimate surfaces to human therapy; therefore, it is important to determine their concentrations quickly and reliably. Traditional plaque assay (PA) is the current “gold standard” for quantitating phage titers. However, it requires at least 18 h before results are obtained, and they may be significantly influenced by various factors. Therefore, two alternative assays based on the quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (QPCR) and NanoSight Limited (NS) technologies were recently proposed for enumerating phage particles. The present study compared the three approaches' abilities to quantitate Listeria monocytogenes-, Escherichia coli O157:H7- and Yersinia pestis-specific lytic phages quickly and reproducibly. The average coefficient of variation (CVS) of the PA method including all three phages was 0.15. The reproducibility of the PA method decreased dramatically when multiple investigators performed the assays, and mean differences of as much as 0.33 log were observed. The QPC R method required costly equipment and the synthesis of phage-specific oligonucleotide primers, but it determined phage concentrations faster (within about 4 h) and more precisely than did PA (CVS = 0.13). NS technology required costly equipment, was less precise (CVS = 0.28) than the PA and QPCR methods, and only worked when the phages were suspended in clear medium. However, it provided results within 5 min. After the overall correlation is established with the PA method, either of the two assays may be useful for quickly and reproducibly determining phage concentrations.
bacteriophage; phage; plaque assays; phage titer
Complete sequences of 9.5-kb pPCP1 plasmids in three Yersinia pestis strains from the former Soviet Union (FSU) were determined and compared with those of pPCP1 plasmids in three well-characterized, non-FSU Y. pestis strains (KIM, CO92, and 91001). Two of the FSU plasmids were from strains C2614 and C2944, isolated from plague foci in Russia, and one plasmid was from strain C790 from Kyrgyzstan. Sequence analyses identified four sequence types among the six plasmids. The pPCP1 plasmids in the FSU strains were most genetically related to the pPCP1 plasmid in the KIM strain and least related to the pPCP1 plasmid in Y. pestis 91001. The FSU strains generally had larger pPCP1 plasmid copy numbers compared to strain CO92. Expression of the plasmid's pla gene was significantly (P ≤ .05) higher in strain C2944 than in strain CO92. Given pla's role in Y. pestis virulence, this difference may have important implications for the strain's virulence.
To investigate the efficacy of phage supplementation in reducing pathogen numbers, mice were treated via oral gavage with a Listeria monocytogenes phage preparation (designated ListShield) before being orally infected with L. monocytogenes. The concentrations of L. monocytogenes in the liver, spleen, and intestines were significantly lower (P < .05) in the phage-treated than in the control mice. Phage and antibiotic treatments were similarly effective in reducing the levels of L. monocytogenes in the internal organs of the infected mice. However, the significant weight loss detected in the control and antibiotic-treated groups was not observed in the infected, ListShield-treated mice. Long-term (90 days), biweekly treatment of uninfected mice with ListShield did not elicit detectable changes in the microbiota of their large intestines or deleterious changes in their health. Our data support the potential feasibility of using bacteriophages to control proliferation of L. monocytogenes in mice without affecting commensal microbiota composition.
Comparative Yersinia genomics identifies features responsible for the colonization of specific host habitats and the horizontal transfer of virulence determinants.
New DNA sequencing technologies have enabled detailed comparative genomic analyses of entire genera of bacterial pathogens. Prior to this study, three species of the enterobacterial genus Yersinia that cause invasive human diseases (Yersinia pestis, Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, and Yersinia enterocolitica) had been sequenced. However, there were no genomic data on the Yersinia species with more limited virulence potential, frequently found in soil and water environments.
We used high-throughput sequencing-by-synthesis instruments to obtain 25- to 42-fold average redundancy, whole-genome shotgun data from the type strains of eight species: Y. aldovae, Y. bercovieri, Y. frederiksenii, Y. kristensenii, Y. intermedia, Y. mollaretii, Y. rohdei, and Y. ruckeri. The deepest branching species in the genus, Y. ruckeri, causative agent of red mouth disease in fish, has the smallest genome (3.7 Mb), although it shares the same core set of approximately 2,500 genes as the other members of the species, whose genomes range in size from 4.3 to 4.8 Mb. Yersinia genomes had a similar global partition of protein functions, as measured by the distribution of Cluster of Orthologous Groups families. Genome to genome variation in islands with genes encoding functions such as ureases, hydrogeneases and B-12 cofactor metabolite reactions may reflect adaptations to colonizing specific host habitats.
Rapid high-quality draft sequencing was used successfully to compare pathogenic and non-pathogenic members of the Yersinia genus. This work underscores the importance of the acquisition of horizontally transferred genes in the evolution of Y. pestis and points to virulence determinants that have been gained and lost on multiple occasions in the history of the genus.
A bacteriophage cocktail (designated ECP-100) containing three Myoviridae phages lytic for Escherichia coli O157:H7 was examined for its ability to reduce experimental contamination of hard surfaces (glass coverslips and gypsum boards), tomato, spinach, broccoli, and ground beef by three virulent strains of the bacterium. The hard surfaces and foods contaminated by a mixture of three E. coli O157:H7 strains were treated with ECP-100 (test samples) or sterile phosphate-buffered saline buffer (control samples), and the efficacy of phage treatment was evaluated by comparing the number of viable E. coli organisms recovered from the test and control samples. Treatments (5 min) with the ECP-100 preparation containing three different concentrations of phages (1010, 109, and 108 PFU/ml) resulted in statistically significant reductions (P = <0.05) of 99.99%, 98%, and 94%, respectively, in the number of E. coli O157:H7 organisms recovered from the glass coverslips. Similar treatments resulted in reductions of 100%, 95%, and 85%, respectively, in the number of E. coli O157:H7 organisms recovered from the gypsum board surfaces; the reductions caused by the two most concentrated phage preparations were statistically significant. Treatment with the least concentrated preparation that elicited significantly less contamination of the hard surfaces (i.e., 109 PFU/ml) also significantly reduced the number of viable E. coli O157:H7 organisms on the four food samples. The observed reductions ranged from 94% (at 120 ± 4 h posttreatment of tomato samples) to 100% (at 24 ± 4 h posttreatment of spinach samples). The data suggest that naturally occurring bacteriophages may be useful for reducing contamination of various hard surfaces, fruits, vegetables, and ground beef by E. coli O157:H7.
The genetic composition and antibiotic sensitivities of 50 clinical isolates of Staphylococcus aureus obtained from various clinics in the Republic of Georgia were characterized. S. aureus strains ATCC 700699 and ATCC 29737 were included as reference standards in all analyses. All 52 strains had identical 16S rRNA profiles. In contrast, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) identified 20 distinct PFGE types among the 52 strains examined, which indicates that PFGE is more discriminating than is 16S rRNA sequence analysis for differentiating S. aureus strains. The results of our PFGE typing also suggest that multiple genetic subpopulations (related at the ca. 85% similarity level, based on their SmaI PFGE patterns) exist among the Georgian S. aureus strains. Twenty-two of the 50 Georgian strains were methicillin resistant and PCR positive for mecA, and 5 strains were methicillin sensitive even though they possessed mecA. None of the strains were vancomycin resistant or contained vanA. The nucleotide sequences of mecA fragments obtained from all mecA-containing strains were identical. Our data indicate that the population of S. aureus strains in Georgia is fairly homogeneous and that the prevalence of methicillin-resistant, mecA-positive strains is relatively high in that country.
The intra- and interspecies genetic relationships of 58 strains representing all currently known species of the genus Yersinia were examined by multilocus sequence typing (MLST), using sequence data from 16S RNA, glnA, gyrB, recA, and Y-HSP60 loci. Yersinia aldovae, Y. bercovieri, Y. intermedia, Y. pestis, Y. pseudotuberculosis, Y. rohdei, and Y. ruckeri were genetically more homogeneous than were Y. enterocolitica, Y. frederiksenii, Y. kristensenii, and Y. mollaretii. The MLST data concerning the genetic relatedness within and among various species of Yersinia support the idea that Y. pestis and Y. pseudotuberculosis are two lineages within the same species rather than two distinct species. Y. ruckeri is the genetically most distant species within the genus. There was evidence of O-antigen switching and genetic recombination within and among various species of Yersinia. The genetic relatedness data obtained by MLST of the four housekeeping genes and 16S RNA agreed in most, but not all, instances. MLST was better suited for determining genetic relatedness among yersiniae than was 16S RNA analysis. Some strains of Y. frederiksenii and Y. kristensenii are genetically less related to other strains within those species, compared to strains of all other species within the genus. The taxonomic standing of these strains should be further examined because they may represent currently unrecognized Yersinia species.
Extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL)-producing Escherichia coli strains are emerging pathogens. Molecular typing of ESBL-producing E. coli is useful for surveillance purposes, to monitor outbreaks and track nosocomial spread. Although pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) is the current “gold standard” for bacterial molecular typing, multilocus sequence typing (MLST) may offer advantages. Forty ESBL-producing E. coli isolates were selected at random from a cohort of intensive care unit patients who had active surveillance perirectal cultures done. PFGE identified 19 unique PFGE types (PT) among the 40 isolates; MLST identified 22 unique sequence types. MLST had greater discriminatory ability than PFGE for ESBL-producing E. coli. Simpson's indices of diversity for PFGE and MLST were 0.895 and 0.956, respectively. There were five clonal complexes (CCs) (isolates with differences of no more than two loci) that each contained multiple PT, but each PT was found in only one CC, indicating genetic consistency within a CC. MLST has clear utility in studies of ESBL-producing E. coli, based on a greater discriminatory ability and reproducibility than PFGE and the ability to a priori define genetically related bacterial strains.
One hundred seventy-five Listeria monocytogenes strains were characterized by serotyping, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), and multilocus sequence typing (MLST) based on loci in actA, betL, hlyA, gyrB, pgm, and recA. One hundred twenty-two sequence types (STs) were identified by MLST based on allelic profiles of the four housekeeping genes (betL, gyrB, pgm, and recA), and 34 and 38 alleles were identified for hlyA and actA, respectively. Several actA and hlyA alleles appeared to be predominantly associated with clinical isolates. MLST differentiated most of the L. monocytogenes strains better than did PFGE, and the discriminating ability of PFGE was better than that of serotyping. Several strains with different serotypes were found, by MLST and PFGE, to have very closely related genetic backgrounds, which suggested possible “antigen switching” among them. MLST can be a useful typing tool for differentiating L. monocytogenes strains (including strains undistinguishable by PFGE typing and serotyping), and it may be of value during investigations of food-borne outbreaks of listeriosis.
The fresh-cut produce industry has been the fastest-growing portion of the food retail market during the past 10 years, providing consumers with convenient and nutritious food. However, fresh-cut fruits and vegetables raise food safety concerns, because exposed tissue may be colonized more easily by pathogenic bacteria than intact produce. This is due to the higher availability of nutrients on cut surfaces and the greater potential for contamination because of the increased amount of handling. We found that applied Listeria monocytogenes populations survived and increased only slightly on fresh-cut Red Delicious apples stored at 10°C but increased significantly on fresh-cut honeydew melons stored at 10°C over 7 days. In addition, we examined the effect of lytic, L. monocytogenes-specific phages via two phage application methods, spraying and pipetting, on L. monocytogenes populations in artificially contaminated fresh-cut melons and apples. The phage mixture reduced L. monocytogenes populations by 2.0 to 4.6 log units over the control on honeydew melons. On apples, the reduction was below 0.4 log units. In combination with nisin (a bacteriocin), the phage mixture reduced L. monocytogenes populations by up to 5.7 log units on honeydew melon slices and by up to 2.3 log units on apple slices compared to the control. Nisin alone reduced L. monocytogenes populations by up to 3.2 log units on honeydew melon slices and by up to 2.0 log units on apple slices compared to the control. The phage titer was stable on melon slices, but declined rapidly on apple slices. The spray application of the phage and phage plus nisin reduced the bacterial numbers at least as much as the pipette application. The effectiveness of the phage treatment also depended on the initial concentration of L. monocytogenes.
Twenty-two Vibrio cholerae isolates, including some from “epidemic” (O1 and O139) and “nonepidemic” serogroups, were characterized by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and multilocus sequence typing (MLST) by using three housekeeping genes, gyrB, pgm, and recA; sequence data were also obtained for the virulence-associated genes tcpA, ctxA, and ctxB. Even with the small number of loci used, MLST had better discriminatory ability than did PFGE. On MLST analysis, there was clear clustering of epidemic serogroups; much greater diversity was seen among tcpA- and ctxAB-positive V. cholerae strains from other, nonepidemic serogroups, with a number of tcpA and ctxAB alleles identified.
Multilocus sequence typing (MLST) based on the 16S RNA, pduF, glnA, and manB genes was developed for Salmonella, and its discriminatory ability was compared to those of pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and serotyping. PFGE differentiated several strains undifferentiable by serotyping, and 78 distinct PFGE types were identified among 231 Salmonella isolates grouped into 22 serotypes and 12 strains of undetermined serotype. The strains of several PFGE types were further differentiated by MLST, which suggests that the discriminatory ability of MLST for the typing of Salmonella is better than that of serotyping and/or PFGE typing. manB-based sequence typing identified two distinct genetic clusters containing 32 of 54 (59%) clinical isolates whose manB gene sequences were analyzed. The G+C contents and Splitstree analysis of the manB, glnA, and pduF genes of Salmonella indicated that the genes differ in their evolutionary origins and that recombination played a significant role in their evolution.
The novel epidemic strain Vibrio cholerae O139 Bengal originated from a seventh-pandemic O1 El Tor strain by antigenic shift resulting from homologous recombination-mediated exchange of O-antigen biosynthesis (wb*) clusters. Conservation of the genetic organization of wb* regions seen in other serogroups raised the possibility of the existence of pathogenic non-O1 and non-O139 V. cholerae strains that emerged by similar events. To test this hypothesis, 300 V. cholerae isolates of non-O1 and non-O139 serogroups were screened for the presence of virulence genes and an epidemic genetic background by DNA dot blotting, IS1004 fingerprinting, and restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis. We found four non-O1 strains (serogroups O27, O37, O53, and O65) with an O1 genetic backbone suggesting exchange of wb* clusters. DNA sequence analysis of the O37 wb* region revealed that a novel ∼23.4-kb gene cluster had replaced all but the ∼4.2-kb right junction of the 22-kb O1 wbe region. In sharp contrast to the backbones, the virulence regions of the four strains were quite heterogeneous; the O53 and O65 strains had the El Tor vibrio pathogenicity island (VPI) cluster, the O37 strain had the classical VPI cluster, and the O27 strain had a novel VPI cluster. Two of the four strains carried CTXφ; the O27 strain possessed a CTXφ with a recently reported immune specificity (rstR-4** allele) and a novel ctxB allele, and the O37 strain had an El Tor CTXφ (rstRET allele) and novel ctxAB alleles. Although the O53 and O65 strains lacked the ctxAB genes, they carried a pre-CTXφ (i.e., rstRcla). Identification of non-O1 and non-O139 serogroups with pathogenic potential in epidemic genetic backgrounds means that attention should be paid to possible future epidemics caused by these serogroups and to the need for new, rapid vaccine development strategies.
A rapid protocol for subtyping vancomycin-resistant enterococci by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis is reported. The procedure is simple and potentially cost-effective and allows reproducible subtyping of the strains in approximately 1 day.
Sixty-six Corynebacterium diphtheriae strains (62 of the gravis biotype and 4 of the mitis biotype) isolated during the Georgian diphtheria epidemic of 1993 to 1998 and 13 non-Georgian C. diphtheriae strains (10 Russian and 3 reference isolates) were characterized by (i) biotyping, (ii) toxigenicity testing with the Elek assay and PCR, (iii) the randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) technique, and (iv) pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Fifteen selected strains were ribotyped. Six RAPD types and 15 PFGE patterns were identified among all strains examined, and 12 ribotypes were found among the 15 strains that were ribotyped. The Georgian epidemic apparently was caused by one major clonal group of C. diphtheriae (PFGE type A, ribotype R1), which was identical to the predominant epidemic strain(s) isolated during the concurrent diphtheria epidemic in Russia. A dendrogram based on the PFGE patterns revealed profound differences between the minor (nonpredominant) epidemic strains found in Georgia and Russia. The methodologies for RAPD typing, ribotyping, and PFGE typing of C. diphtheriae strains were improved to enable rapid and convenient molecular typing of the strains. The RAPD technique was adequate for biotype differentiation; however, PFGE and ribotyping were better (and equal to each other) at discriminating between epidemiologically related and unrelated isolates.
The DNA sequence of the O-antigen biosynthesis cluster (wbf) of a recently emergent pathogen, Vibrio cholerae serogroup O139, has been determined. Here we report the sequence of the genes downstream of the O139 wbfX gene and analysis of the genes flanking the wbf gene cluster in other serogroups. The gene downstream of wbfX, designated rjg (right junction gene), is predicted to be not required for O-antigen biosynthesis but appears to be a hot spot for DNA rearrangements. Several variants of the rjg gene (three different insertions and a deletion) have been found in other serogroups. DNA dot blot analysis of 106 V. cholerae strains showed the presence of the left and right junction genes, gmhD and rjg, respectively, in all strains. Further, these genes mapped to a single I-CeuI fragment in all 21 strains analyzed by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, indicating a close linkage. The insertion sequence element IS1358, found in both O1 and O139 wb* regions, is present in 61% of the strains tested; interestingly, where present, it is predominantly linked to the wb* region. These results indicated a cassette-like organization of the wb* region, with the conserved genes (gmhD and rjg) flanking the divergent, serogroup-specific wb* genes and IS1358. A similar organization of the wb* region in other serogroups raises the possibility of the emergence of new pathogens by homologous recombination via the junction genes.
Yersinia bercovieri, a recently identified Y. enterocolitica-like species, produces a heat-stable enterotoxin (designated YbST) which has biologic activity in infant mice and increases short circuit current in Ussing chambers. Although YbST has some properties in common with the heat-stable enterotoxins of Y. enterocolitica (YST I and YST II), it appears to be a novel toxin because (i) it was not neutralized by anti-YST I antiserum, (ii) YbST-neutralizing antiserum did not neutralize YST I, and (iii) Y. bercovieri strains did not hybridize with genetic probes for yst I, yst II, and other known enterotoxins.