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1.  Spread of a Distinct Stx2-Encoding Phage Prototype among Escherichia coli O104:H4 Strains from Outbreaks in Germany, Norway, and Georgia 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(19):10444-10455.
Shiga toxin 2 (Stx2)-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O104:H4 caused one of the world's largest outbreaks of hemorrhagic colitis and hemolytic uremic syndrome in Germany in 2011. These strains have evolved from enteroaggregative E. coli (EAEC) by the acquisition of the Stx2 genes and have been designated enteroaggregative hemorrhagic E. coli. Nucleotide sequencing has shown that the Stx2 gene is carried by prophages integrated into the chromosome of STEC O104:H4. We studied the properties of Stx2-encoding bacteriophages which are responsible for the emergence of this new type of E. coli pathogen. For this, we analyzed Stx bacteriophages from STEC O104:H4 strains from Germany (in 2001 and 2011), Norway (2006), and the Republic of Georgia (2009). Viable Stx2-encoding bacteriophages could be isolated from all STEC strains except for the Norwegian strain. The Stx2 phages formed lysogens on E. coli K-12 by integration into the wrbA locus, resulting in Stx2 production. The nucleotide sequence of the Stx2 phage P13374 of a German STEC O104:H4 outbreak was determined. From the bioinformatic analyses of the prophage sequence of 60,894 bp, 79 open reading frames were inferred. Interestingly, the Stx2 phages from the German 2001 and 2011 outbreak strains were found to be identical and closely related to the Stx2 phages from the Georgian 2009 isolates. Major proteins of the virion particles were analyzed by mass spectrometry. Stx2 production in STEC O104:H4 strains was inducible by mitomycin C and was compared to Stx2 production of E. coli K-12 lysogens.
doi:10.1128/JVI.00986-12
PMCID: PMC3457275  PMID: 22811533
2.  Association of Nucleotide Polymorphisms within the O-Antigen Gene Cluster of Escherichia coli O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, and O145 with Serogroups and Genetic Subtypes 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2012;78(18):6689-6703.
Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains are important food-borne pathogens capable of causing hemolytic-uremic syndrome. STEC O157:H7 strains cause the majority of severe disease in the United States; however, there is a growing concern for the amount and severity of illness attributable to non-O157 STEC. Recently, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) published the intent to regulate the presence of STEC belonging to serogroups O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, and O145 in nonintact beef products. To ensure the effective control of these bacteria, sensitive and specific tests for their detection will be needed. In this study, we identified single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the O-antigen gene cluster that could be used to detect STEC strains of the above-described serogroups. Using comparative DNA sequence analysis, we identified 22 potentially informative SNPs among 164 STEC and non-STEC strains of the above-described serogroups and designed matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization–time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF) assays to test the STEC allele frequencies in an independent panel of bacterial strains. We found at least one SNP that was specific to each serogroup and also differentiated between STEC and non-STEC strains. Differences in the DNA sequence of the O-antigen gene cluster corresponded well with differences in the virulence gene profiles and provided evidence of different lineages for STEC and non-STEC strains. The SNPs discovered in this study can be used to develop tests that will not only accurately identify O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, and O145 strains but also predict whether strains detected in the above-described serogroups contain Shiga toxin-encoding genes.
doi:10.1128/AEM.01259-12
PMCID: PMC3426686  PMID: 22798363
3.  Diagnostic Microbiologic Methods in the GEMS-1 Case/Control Study 
To understand the etiology of moderate-to-severe diarrhea among children in high mortality areas of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, we performed a comprehensive case/control study of children aged <5 years at 7 sites. Each site employed an identical case/control study design and each utilized a uniform comprehensive set of microbiological assays to identify the likely bacterial, viral and protozoal etiologies. The selected assays effected a balanced consideration of cost, robustness and performance, and all assays were performed at the study sites. Identification of bacterial pathogens employed streamlined conventional bacteriologic biochemical and serological algorithms. Diarrheagenic Escherichia coli were identified by application of a multiplex polymerase chain reaction assay for enterotoxigenic, enteroaggregative, and enteropathogenic E. coli. Rotavirus, adenovirus, Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia enterica, and Cryptosporidium species were detected by commercially available enzyme immunoassays on stool samples. Samples positive for adenovirus were further evaluated for adenovirus serotypes 40 and 41. We developed a novel multiplex assay to detect norovirus (types 1 and 2), astrovirus, and sapovirus. The portfolio of diagnostic assays used in the GEMS study can be broadly applied in developing countries seeking robust cost-effective methods for enteric pathogen detection.
doi:10.1093/cid/cis754
PMCID: PMC3502308  PMID: 23169941
4.  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
5.  Multicenter Evaluation of a Sequence-Based Protocol for Subtyping Shiga Toxins and Standardizing Stx Nomenclature 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2012;50(9):2951-2963.
When Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains emerged as agents of human disease, two types of toxin were identified: Shiga toxin type 1 (Stx1) (almost identical to Shiga toxin produced by Shigella dysenteriae type 1) and the immunologically distinct type 2 (Stx2). Subsequently, numerous STEC strains have been characterized that express toxins with variations in amino acid sequence, some of which confer unique biological properties. These variants were grouped within the Stx1 or Stx2 type and often assigned names to indicate that they were not identical in sequence or phenotype to the main Stx1 or Stx2 type. A lack of specificity or consistency in toxin nomenclature has led to much confusion in the characterization of STEC strains. Because serious outcomes of infection have been attributed to certain Stx subtypes and less so with others, we sought to better define the toxin subtypes within the main Stx1 and Stx2 types. We compared the levels of relatedness of 285 valid sequence variants of Stx1 and Stx2 and identified common sequences characteristic of each of three Stx/Stx1 and seven Stx2 subtypes. A novel, simple PCR subtyping method was developed, independently tested on a battery of 48 prototypic STEC strains, and improved at six clinical and research centers to test the reproducibility, sensitivity, and specificity of the PCR. Using a consistent schema for nomenclature of the Stx toxins and stx genes by phylogenetic sequence-based relatedness of the holotoxin proteins, we developed a typing approach that should obviate the need to bioassay each newly described toxin and that predicts important biological characteristics.
doi:10.1128/JCM.00860-12
PMCID: PMC3421821  PMID: 22760050
6.  In vivo bioluminescence imaging of Escherichia coli O104:H4 and role of aerobactin during colonization of a mouse model of infection 
BMC Microbiology  2012;12:112.
Background
A major outbreak of bloody diarrhea associated with Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O104:H4 occurred early in 2011, to which an unusual number of hemolytic uremic syndrome cases were linked. Due to limited information regarding pathogenesis and/or virulence properties of this particular serotype, we investigated the contribution of the aerobactin iron transport system during in vitro and in vivo conditions.
Results
A bioluminescent reporter construct was used to perform real-time monitoring of E. coli O104:H4 in a mouse model of infection. We verified that our reporter strain maintained characteristics and growth kinetics that were similar to those of the wild-type E. coli strain. We found that the intestinal cecum of ICR (CD-1) mice was colonized by O104:H4, with bacteria persisting for up to 7 days after intragastric inoculation. MALDI-TOF analysis of heat-extracted proteins was performed to identify putative surface-exposed virulence determinants. A protein with a high similarity to the aerobactin iron receptor was identified and further demonstrated to be up-regulated in E. coli O104:H4 when grown on MacConkey agar or during iron-depleted conditions. Because the aerobactin iron acquisition system is a key virulence factor in Enterobacteriaceae, an isogenic aerobactin receptor (iutA) mutant was created and its intestinal fitness assessed in the murine model. We demonstrated that the aerobactin mutant was out-competed by the wild-type E. coli O104:H4 during in vivo competition experiments, and the mutant was unable to persist in the cecum.
Conclusion
Our findings demonstrate that bioluminescent imaging is a useful tool to monitor E. coli O104:H4 colonization properties, and the murine model can become a rapid way to evaluate bacterial factors associated with fitness and/or colonization during E. coli O104:H4 infections.
doi:10.1186/1471-2180-12-112
PMCID: PMC3438087  PMID: 22716772
7.  Yersinia pseudotuberculosis and Y. enterocolitica Infections, FoodNet, 1996–2007 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2010;16(3):566-567.
doi:10.3201/eid1603.091106
PMCID: PMC3322025  PMID: 20202449
Yersinia pseudotuberculosis; FoodNet; gastroenteritis; lymphadenitis; Yersinia enterocolitica; zoonoses; bacteria; letter
8.  Identification of Vibrio Isolates by a Multiplex PCR Assay and rpoB Sequence Determination▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2006;45(1):134-140.
Vibrio, a diverse genus of aquatic bacteria, currently includes 72 species, 12 of which occur in human clinical samples. Of these 12, three species—Vibrio cholerae, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, and Vibrio vulnificus—account for the majority of Vibrio infections in humans. Rapid and accurate identification of Vibrio species has been problematic because phenotypic characteristics are variable within species and biochemical identification requires 2 or more days to complete. To facilitate the identification of human-pathogenic species, we developed a multiplex PCR that uses species-specific primers to amplify gene regions in four species (V. cholerae, V. parahaemolyticus, V. vulnificus, and V. mimicus). The assay was tested on a sample of 309 Vibrio isolates representing 26 named species (including 12 human pathogens) that had been characterized by biochemical methods. A total of 190 isolates that had been identified as one of the four target species all yielded results consistent with the previous classification. The assay identified an additional four V. parahaemolyticus isolates among the other 119 isolates. Sequence analysis based on rpoB was used to validate the multiplex results for these four isolates, and all clustered with other V. parahaemolyticus sequences. The rpoB sequences for 12 of 15 previously unidentified isolates clustered with other Vibrio species in a phylogenetic analysis, and three isolates appeared to represent unnamed Vibrio species. The PCR assay provides a simple, rapid, and reliable tool for identification of the major Vibrio pathogens in clinical samples, and rpoB sequencing provides an additional identification tool for other species in the genus Vibrio.
doi:10.1128/JCM.01544-06
PMCID: PMC1828960  PMID: 17093013
9.  Evolutionary Genetics of a New Pathogenic Escherichia Species: Escherichia albertii and Related Shigella boydii Strains 
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(2):619-628.
A bacterium originally described as Hafnia alvei induces diarrhea in rabbits and causes epithelial damage similar to the attachment and effacement associated with enteropathogenic Escherichia coli. Subsequent studies identified similar H. alvei-like strains that are positive for an intimin gene (eae) probe and, based on DNA relatedness, are classified as a distinct Escherichia species, Escherichia albertii. We determined sequences for multiple housekeeping genes in five E. albertii strains and compared these sequences to those of strains representing the major groups of pathogenic E. coli and Shigella. A comparison of 2,484 codon positions in 14 genes revealed that E. albertii strains differ, on average, at ∼7.4% of the nucleotide sites from pathogenic E. coli strains and at 15.7% from Salmonella enterica serotype Typhimurium. Interestingly, E. albertii strains were found to be closely related to strains of Shigella boydii serotype 13 (Shigella B13), a distant relative of E. coli representing a divergent lineage in the genus Escherichia. Analysis of homologues of intimin (eae) revealed that the central conserved domains are similar in E. albertii and Shigella B13 and distinct from those of eae variants found in pathogenic E. coli. Sequence analysis of the cytolethal distending toxin gene cluster (cdt) also disclosed three allelic groups corresponding to E. albertii, Shigella B13, and a nontypeable isolate serologically related to S. boydii serotype 7. Based on the synonymous substitution rate, the E. albertii-Shigella B13 lineage is estimated to have split from an E. coli-like ancestor ∼28 million years ago and formed a distinct evolutionary branch of enteric pathogens that has radiated into groups with distinct virulence properties.
doi:10.1128/JB.187.2.619-628.2005
PMCID: PMC543563  PMID: 15629933
10.  Real-Time Fluorescence PCR Assays for Detection and Characterization of Heat-Labile I and Heat-Stable I Enterotoxin Genes from Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2004;42(9):4092-4100.
To facilitate the diagnosis of enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) infections in humans, we developed and evaluated real-time fluorescence PCR assays for the Roche LightCycler (LC) against the enterotoxin genes commonly present in strains associated with human illness. Separate LC-PCR assays with identical cycling conditions were designed for the type I heat-labile enterotoxin (LT I) and the type I heat-stable enterotoxin (ST I) genes, using the LC hybridization probe format. A duplex assay for ST I with two sets of amplification primers and three hybridization probes was required to detect the major nucleotide sequence variants of ST I, ST Ia and ST Ib. LC-PCR findings from the testing of 161 E. coli isolates of human origin (138 ETEC and 23 non-ETEC) were compared with those obtained by block cycler PCR analysis. The sensitivities and specificities of the LC-PCR assays were each 100% for the LT I and ST I genes. The LC-PCR and block cycler PCR assays were also compared for their abilities to detect LT I and ST I genes in spiked stool specimens with different methods of sample preparation. Findings from these experiments revealed that the limits of detection for the LC-PCR assays were the same or substantially lower than those observed for the block cycler PCR assay. Melting curve analysis of the amplified LT I and ST I genes revealed sequence variation within each gene, which for the ST I genes correlated with the presence of ST Ia and ST Ib. The rapidity, sensitivity, and specificity of the LC-PCR assays make them attractive alternatives to block cycler PCR assays for the detection and characterization of ETEC.
doi:10.1128/JCM.42.9.4092-4100.2004
PMCID: PMC516355  PMID: 15364995
11.  Patterns of Variations in Escherichia coli Strains That Produce Cytolethal Distending Toxin  
Infection and Immunity  2004;72(2):684-690.
A collection of 20 Escherichia coli strains that produce cytolethal distending toxin (CDT) were analyzed for their virulence-associated genes. All of these strains were serotyped, and multiplex PCR analysis was used to ascertain the presence of genes encoding other virulence factors, including Shiga toxin, intimin, enterohemolysin, cytotoxic necrotizing factor type 1 (CNF1) and CNF2, heat-stable toxin, and heat-labile toxin. These CDT-producing strains possessed various combinations of known virulence genes, some of which have not been noted before. Partial cdtB sequences were obtained from 10 of these strains, and their predicted CdtB sequences were compared to known E. coli CdtB sequences; some of the sequences were identical to known CdtB sequences, but two were not. PCR primers based on sequence differences between the known cdt sequences were tested for their ability to detect CDT producers and to determine CDT type. Correlations between the type of CDT produced, the presence of other virulence properties, and overall strain relatedness revealed that the CDT producers studied here can be divided into three general groups, with distinct differences in CDT type and in their complement of virulence-associated genes.
doi:10.1128/IAI.72.2.684-690.2004
PMCID: PMC321568  PMID: 14742509
12.  Accuracy of Six Commercially Available Systems for Identification of Members of the Family Vibrionaceae 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2003;41(12):5654-5659.
Six commercially available bacterial identification products were tested with Vibrio alginolyticus (12 strains), V. cholerae (30 strains), Photobacterium (Vibrio) damselae (10 strains), V. fluvialis (10 strains), V. furnissii (4 strains), V. hollisae (10 strains), V. metschnikovii (9 strains), V. mimicus (10 strains), V. parahaemolyticus (30 strains), and V. vulnificus (10 strains) to determine the accuracy of each system for identification. The products included API 20E, Crystal E/NF, MicroScan Neg ID2 and Rapid Neg ID3, and Vitek GNI+ and ID-GNB. Each product was tested only with those species that were listed in its database. Overall, the systems correctly identified 63.9, 80.9, 63.1, 73.6, 73.5, and 77.7% of the isolates to species level, respectively. Error rates ranged from 0.8% for the API 20E to 10.4% for the Rapid Neg ID3. The API 20E gave “no identification” for 13.1% of the isolates, while the Neg ID2, GNI+, ID-GNB, and Crystal were unable to identify 1.8, 2.9, 5.0, and 6.9%, respectively. For V. cholerae, specifically, accuracy ranged from 50.0 to 96.7%, with the API 20E having the worst performance and Crystal having the best. V. fluvialis presented the biggest challenge for the API 20E and the GNI+, with probabilities averaging 10%, while V. mimicus was a major problem with the Crystal E/NF, which identified none of the strains correctly. With the Neg ID2, correct answers were often obtained only after a modified inoculation of the panel with a bacterial suspension prepared with 0.85% NaCl. Additional tests required for identification often included growth in the absence of NaCl, which is not readily available in most clinical laboratories. The only product to correctly identify at least 90% of V. cholerae strains was the Crystal E/NF, and only three of the six products, the API 20E and both of the Vitek cards, correctly identified more than 90% of the V. parahaemolyticus strains. Thus, extreme care must be taken in the interpretation of answers from these six commercially available systems for the identification of Vibrio species.
doi:10.1128/JCM.41.12.5654-5659.2003
PMCID: PMC309021  PMID: 14662957
13.  Real-Time Fluorescence PCR Assays for Detection and Characterization of Shiga Toxin, Intimin, and Enterohemolysin Genes from Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2002;40(7):2555-2565.
PCR assays have proved useful for detecting and characterizing Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC). Recent advances in PCR technology have facilitated the development of real-time fluorescence PCR assays with greatly reduced amplification times and improved methods for the detection of amplified target sequences. We developed and evaluated two such assays for the LightCycler instrument: one that simultaneously detects the genes for Shiga toxins 1 and 2 (stx1 and stx2) and another that simultaneously detects the genes for intimin (eae) and enterohemolysin (E-hly). Amplification and sequence-specific detection of the two target genes were completed within 60 min. Findings from the testing of 431 STEC isolates of human and animal origin, 73 isolates of E. coli negative for stx genes, and 118 isolates of other bacterial species with the LightCycler PCR (LC-PCR) assays were compared with those obtained by conventional block cycler PCR analysis. The sensitivities and specificities of the LC-PCR assays were each 100% for the stx1, eae, and E-hly genes and 96 and 100%, respectively, for the stx2 gene. No stx2 genes were detected from 10 stx2f-positive isolates because of significant nucleotide differences in their primer annealing regions. Melting curve analyses of the amplified Shiga toxin genes revealed sequence variation within each of the tested genes that correlated with described and novel gene variants. The performance characteristics of the LC-PCR assays, such as their speed, detection method, and the potential subtyping information available from melting curve analyses, make them attractive alternatives to block cycler PCR assays for detecting and characterizing STEC strains.
doi:10.1128/JCM.40.7.2555-2565.2002
PMCID: PMC120605  PMID: 12089277

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