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Validation and Application of a Real-Time PCR Assay Based on the CRISPR Array for Serotype-Specific Detection and Quantification of Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli O157:H7 in Cattle Feces

Noll, Lance W., Chall, Rachel, Shridhar, Pragathi B., Liu, Xuming, Bai, Jianfa, Delannoy, Sabine, Fach, Patrick, Nagaraja, T. G.
Journal of food protection 2018 v.81 no.7 pp. 1157-1164
Escherichia coli O157, O-antigens, Shiga toxin, antigens, cattle, feces, feedlots, genes, genetic engineering, intimin, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, serotypes, virulence
Several real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR) assays have been developed for detection and quantification of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in complex matrices by targeting genes for serogroup-specific O-antigen (rfbE(O157)), H7 antigen, and one or more major virulence factors (Shiga toxin and intimin). A major limitation of such assays is that coamplification of H7 and virulence genes in a sample does not signal association of those genes with the O157 serogroup. Clusters of regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) polymorphisms are highly correlated with certain enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) serotypes, including O157:H7, and the presence of genes for Shiga toxin (stx1 and stx2) and intimin (eae). Our objectives were to develop and validate a qPCR assay targeting the CRISPR array for the detection and quantification of EHEC O157:H7 in cattle feces and to evaluate the applicability of the assay for detection of and comparison with a four-plex qPCR assay targeting rfbEO157, stx1, stx2, and eae genes and a culture method. Detection limits of the CRISPR(O157:H7) qPCR assay for cattle feces spiked with pure cultures were 2.1 × 10(3) and 2.(3) × 10(0) CFU/g before and after enrichment, respectively. Detection of E. coli O157 in feedlot cattle fecal samples (n = 576) was compared among the CRISPR(O157:H7) qPCR assay, culture method, and four-plex qPCR assay. The CRISPR(O157:H7) qPCR detected 42.2% of the samples (243 of 576 samples) as positive for E. coli O157:H7, compared with 30.4% (175 samples) by the culture method. Nearly all samples (97.2%; 560 samples) were positive for rfbEO157 by the four-plex PCR, but 21.8% (122 of 560 samples) were negative for the stx and/or eae genes, making it unlikely that EHEC O157:H7 was present in these samples. Cohen's kappa statistic indicated a fair and poor agreement beyond that due to chance between the CRISPR assay and the culture method and four-plex assay, respectively. This novel qPCR assay can detect the EHEC O157:H7 serotype in cattle feces by targeting CRISPR polymorphisms.