Rapid and reliable detection of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli by real-time multiplex PCR

Kelly S. Anklam, Kaushi S.T. Kanankege, Tina K. Gonzales, Charles W. Kaspar, Dörte Döpfer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Escherichia coli O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, O145, and O157 are the predominant Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) serogroups implicated in outbreaks of human foodborne illness worldwide. The increasing prevalence of these pathogens has important public health implications. Beef products have been considered a main source of foodborne human STEC infections. Robust and sensitive methods for the detection and characterization of these pathogens are needed to determine prevalence and incidence of STEC in beef processing facilities and to improve food safety interventions aimed at eliminating STEC from the food supply. This study was conducted to develop Taqman real-time multiplex PCR assays for the screening and rapid detection of the predominant STEC serogroups associated with human illness. Three serogroup-specific assays targeted the O-antigen gene clusters of E. coli O26 (wzy), O103 (wzx), and O145 (wzx) in assay 1, O45 (wzy), O111 (manC), and O121 (wzx) in assay 2, and O157 (rfbE) in assay 3. The uidA gene also was included in the serogroup-specific assays as an E. coli internal amplification control. A fourth assay was developed to target selected virulence genes for Shiga toxin (stx1 and stx2), intimin (eae), and enterohemolysin (ehxA). The specificity of the serogroup and virulence gene assays was assessed by testing 100 and 62 E. coli strains and non-E. coli control strains, respectively. The assays correctly detected the genes in all strains examined, and no crossreactions were observed, representing 100% specificity. The detection limits of the assays were 103 or 104 CFU/ml for pure cultures and artificially contaminated fecal samples, and after a 6-h enrichment period, the detection limit of the assays was 100 CFU/ml. These results indicate that the four real-time multiplex PCR assays are robust and effective for the rapid and reliable detection of the seven predominant STEC serogroups of major public health concern and the detection of their virulence genes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)643-650
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of food protection
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2012 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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