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Molecular Risk Assessment and Epidemiological Typing of Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli by Using a Novel PCR Binary Typing System

Abstract

Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) is a zoonotic pathogen that causes diarrheal disease in humans and is of public health concern because of its ability to cause outbreaks and severe disease such as hemorrhagic colitis or hemolytic-uremic syndrome. More than 400 serotypes of STEC have been implicated in outbreaks and sporadic human disease. The aim of this study was to develop a PCR binary typing (P-BIT) system that could be used to aid in risk assessment and epidemiological studies of STEC by using gene targets that would represent a broad range of STEC virulence genes. We investigated the distribution of 41 gene targets in 75 O157 and non-O157 STEC isolates and found that P-BIT provided 100% typeability for isolates, gave a diversity index of 97.33% (compared with 99.28% for XbaI pulsed-field gel electrophoresis [PFGE] typing), and produced 100% discrimination for non-O157 STEC isolates. We identified 24 gene targets that conferred the same level of discrimination and produced the same cluster dendrogram as the 41 gene targets initially examined. P-BIT clustering identified O157 from non-O157 isolates and identified seropathotypes associated with outbreaks and severe disease. Numerical analysis of the P-BIT data identified several genes associated with human or nonhuman sources as well as high-risk seropathotypes. We conclude that P-BIT is a useful approach for subtyping, offering the advantage of speed, low cost, and potential for strain risk assessment that can be used in tandem with current molecular typing schema for STEC.

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