Molecular diagnosis of non-serotypeableShigellaspp.: problems and prospects

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It is not always possible to identify Shigella serogroups/serotypes by biochemical properties alone. Specific identification requires serotyping. Occasionally, isolates that resemble Shigella spp. biochemically, but are non-agglutinable with available antisera, have been observed. Several mechanisms have been reported to limit the efficiency of the serotyping assay. Serotype conversion is a major mechanism in Shigella spp. to escape protective host immune responses. This easy conversion through significant modification of the O-antigen backbone results in different serotypes, which makes laboratory identification difficult. Furthermore, members of the family Enterobacteriaceae are closely related and there is antigenic cross-over (intra- and inter-specific cross-reaction) which affects the agglutination reaction. The performance of the available methods for identification of non-serotypeable Shigella is discussed here, and reveals them to be non-reliable. This shows a need for an alternative method for identification and typing of Shigella spp.

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