Development and use of a multiplex PCR system for the rapid screening of heat labile toxin I, heat stable toxin II and shiga-like toxin I and II genes of Escherichia coli in water

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Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) may produce heat-labile toxin (LT) I and LTII and heat-stable toxin (ST) I and STII, while shiga toxin producing E. coli (STEC) strains, including enterohaemorrhagicE. coli (EHEC), may produce shiga-like toxin (SLT) I and/or SLTII. Both ETEC and STEC are pathogenic to humans, pigs and cattle. As contamination of environmental water by any of these pathogenicE. coli cells is possible, a multiplex polymerase chain reaction(PCR) system for the rapid screening of LTI, STII, and SLTI and SLTII genes of E. coli was developed. The PCR primers used were the SLTI and SLTII genes specific primers developed by the present authors and the LTI and STII genes specific primers reported by other laboratories. The detection specificity of this multiplex PCR system was confirmed by PCR assay of ETEC, STEC and other E. coli cells as well as non-E. coli bacteria. Its detection limit was 102-103 cfu each of the target cells per assay. When this multiplex PCR system was used for the rapid screening of LTI, STII ETEC and STEC in water samples such as tap, underground and lake waters, it was found that after the enrichment step, as few as 100 cells 100 ml-1 of the water sample could be detected. Therefore, this PCR system could be used for the rapid monitoring of ETEC and/or STEC cells contaminating water samples.

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