Main content area

Free Shiga toxin 1‐encoding bacteriophages are less prevalent than Shiga toxin 2 phages in extraintestinal environments

Grau‐Leal, Ferran, Quirós, Pablo, Martínez‐Castillo, Alexandre, Muniesa, Maite
Environmental microbiology 2015 v.17 no.11 pp. 4790-4801
DNA, Escherichia coli, Shiga toxin, Shiga-like toxin 1, Shiga-like toxin 2, bacteriophages, electron microscopy, feces, genes, humans, pathogenicity, river water, sludge, soil, virulent strains, wastewater
Stx bacteriophages are involved in the pathogenicity of Stx‐producing Escherichia coli. Induction of the Stx phage lytic cycle increases Stx expression and releases Stx phages that reach extracellular environments. Stx phage family comprises different phages that harbour any stx subtype. Stx2 is closely related with severe disease and therefore previous studies focused on free Stx2 phages in extraintestinal environments. To provide similar information regarding Stx1 phages, we evaluate free Stx1 phages in 357 samples of human and animal wastewater, faeces, river water, soil, sludge and food. Our method, based on quantification of stx₁ in the DNA from the viral fraction, was validated using electron microscopy counting of phages and infectivity. The overall prevalence of Stx1 phages was very low: 7.6% of positive samples and values below 3 × 10³ GC (gene copies) ml⁻¹. These results contrast starkly with the abundance of Stx2 phages in the samples (68.4%). This environmental scarcity of free Stx1 phages is attributed to their lower rates of induction and the fact that Stx1 does not require phage induction to be expressed because it possesses an independent promoter. The implications of the low prevalence of free Stx1 phages for the emergence of new pathogenic strains in the environment are discussed.