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1.  Genomic Comparison of Escherichia coli O104:H4 Isolates from 2009 and 2011 Reveals Plasmid, and Prophage Heterogeneity, Including Shiga Toxin Encoding Phage stx2 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e48228.
In May of 2011, an enteroaggregative Escherichia coli O104:H4 strain that had acquired a Shiga toxin 2-converting phage caused a large outbreak of bloody diarrhea in Europe which was notable for its high prevalence of hemolytic uremic syndrome cases. Several studies have described the genomic inventory and phylogenies of strains associated with the outbreak and a collection of historical E. coli O104:H4 isolates using draft genome assemblies. We present the complete, closed genome sequences of an isolate from the 2011 outbreak (2011C–3493) and two isolates from cases of bloody diarrhea that occurred in the Republic of Georgia in 2009 (2009EL–2050 and 2009EL–2071). Comparative genome analysis indicates that, while the Georgian strains are the nearest neighbors to the 2011 outbreak isolates sequenced to date, structural and nucleotide-level differences are evident in the Stx2 phage genomes, the mer/tet antibiotic resistance island, and in the prophage and plasmid profiles of the strains, including a previously undescribed plasmid with homology to the pMT virulence plasmid of Yersinia pestis. In addition, multiphenotype analysis showed that 2009EL–2071 possessed higher resistance to polymyxin and membrane-disrupting agents. Finally, we show evidence by electron microscopy of the presence of a common phage morphotype among the European and Georgian strains and a second phage morphotype among the Georgian strains. The presence of at least two stx2 phage genotypes in host genetic backgrounds that may derive from a recent common ancestor of the 2011 outbreak isolates indicates that the emergence of stx2 phage-containing E. coli O104:H4 strains probably occurred more than once, or that the current outbreak isolates may be the result of a recent transfer of a new stx2 phage element into a pre-existing stx2-positive genetic background.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048228
PMCID: PMC3486847  PMID: 23133618
2.  Comprehensive Biothreat Cluster Identification by PCR/Electrospray-Ionization Mass Spectrometry 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e36528.
Technology for comprehensive identification of biothreats in environmental and clinical specimens is needed to protect citizens in the case of a biological attack. This is a challenge because there are dozens of bacterial and viral species that might be used in a biological attack and many have closely related near-neighbor organisms that are harmless. The biothreat agent, along with its near neighbors, can be thought of as a biothreat cluster or a biocluster for short. The ability to comprehensively detect the important biothreat clusters with resolution sufficient to distinguish the near neighbors with an extremely low false positive rate is required. A technological solution to this problem can be achieved by coupling biothreat group-specific PCR with electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (PCR/ESI-MS). The biothreat assay described here detects ten bacterial and four viral biothreat clusters on the NIAID priority pathogen and HHS/USDA select agent lists. Detection of each of the biothreat clusters was validated by analysis of a broad collection of biothreat organisms and near neighbors prepared by spiking biothreat nucleic acids into nucleic acids extracted from filtered environmental air. Analytical experiments were carried out to determine breadth of coverage, limits of detection, linearity, sensitivity, and specificity. Further, the assay breadth was demonstrated by testing a diverse collection of organisms from each biothreat cluster. The biothreat assay as configured was able to detect all the target organism clusters and did not misidentify any of the near-neighbor organisms as threats. Coupling biothreat cluster-specific PCR to electrospray ionization mass spectrometry simultaneously provides the breadth of coverage, discrimination of near neighbors, and an extremely low false positive rate due to the requirement that an amplicon with a precise base composition of a biothreat agent be detected by mass spectrometry.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0036528
PMCID: PMC3387173  PMID: 22768032
3.  Application of the Ibis-T5000 Pan-Orthopoxvirus Assay to Quantitatively Detect Monkeypox Viral Loads in Clinical Specimens from Macaques Experimentally Infected with Aerosolized Monkeypox Virus 
Monkeypox virus (MPXV), a member of the family Poxviridae and genus Orthopoxvirus, causes a smallpox-like disease in humans. A previously described pan-Orthopoxvirus assay, based on a broad-range polymerase chain reaction (PCR) coupled with electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (PCR/ESI-MS), was evaluated for its ability to detect MPXV from spiked human and aerosol-infected cynomolgous macaque (Macaca fascicularis) samples. Detection of MPXV DNA from macaque tissue, blood, and spiked human blood by the PCR/ESI-MS pan-Orthopoxvirus assay was comparable, albeit at slightly higher levels, to the current gold standard method of real-time PCR with the pan-Orthopoxvirus assay and had a limit of detection of 200 plaque-forming units. Furthermore, the platform was able to distinguish MPXV and vaccinia viruses that were spiked into macaque blood samples at various concentrations. This platform provides a new tool for the diagnosis and monitoring of orthopoxviral loads during vaccine or antiviral studies, but also could provide rapid identification during natural outbreaks or bioterrorism attacks.
doi:10.4269/ajtmh.2010.09-0361
PMCID: PMC2813175  PMID: 20134011
4.  Identification of Pathogenic Vibrio Species by Multilocus PCR-Electrospray Ionization Mass Spectrometry and Its Application to Aquatic Environments of the Former Soviet Republic of Georgia▿ †  
The Ibis T5000 is a novel diagnostic platform that couples PCR and mass spectrometry. In this study, we developed an assay that can identify all known pathogenic Vibrio species and field-tested it using natural water samples from both freshwater lakes and the Georgian coastal zone of the Black Sea. Of the 278 total water samples screened, 9 different Vibrio species were detected, 114 (41%) samples were positive for V. cholerae, and 5 (0.8%) samples were positive for the cholera toxin A gene (ctxA). All ctxA-positive samples were from two freshwater lakes, and no ctxA-positive samples from any of the Black Sea sites were detected.
doi:10.1128/AEM.01919-09
PMCID: PMC2838023  PMID: 20118359
5.  Global Surveillance of Emerging Influenza Virus Genotypes by Mass Spectrometry 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(5):e489.
Background
Effective influenza surveillance requires new methods capable of rapid and inexpensive genomic analysis of evolving viral species for pandemic preparedness, to understand the evolution of circulating viral species, and for vaccine strain selection. We have developed one such approach based on previously described broad-range reverse transcription PCR/electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (RT-PCR/ESI-MS) technology.
Methods and Principal Findings
Analysis of base compositions of RT-PCR amplicons from influenza core gene segments (PB1, PB2, PA, M, NS, NP) are used to provide sub-species identification and infer influenza virus H and N subtypes. Using this approach, we detected and correctly identified 92 mammalian and avian influenza isolates, representing 30 different H and N types, including 29 avian H5N1 isolates. Further, direct analysis of 656 human clinical respiratory specimens collected over a seven-year period (1999–2006) showed correct identification of the viral species and subtypes with >97% sensitivity and specificity. Base composition derived clusters inferred from this analysis showed 100% concordance to previously established clades. Ongoing surveillance of samples from the recent influenza virus seasons (2005–2006) showed evidence for emergence and establishment of new genotypes of circulating H3N2 strains worldwide. Mixed viral quasispecies were found in approximately 1% of these recent samples providing a view into viral evolution.
Conclusion/Significance
Thus, rapid RT-PCR/ESI-MS analysis can be used to simultaneously identify all species of influenza viruses with clade-level resolution, identify mixed viral populations and monitor global spread and emergence of novel viral genotypes. This high-throughput method promises to become an integral component of influenza surveillance.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000489
PMCID: PMC1876795  PMID: 17534439

Results 1-5 (5)