Improved detection of Escherichia coli and coliform bacteria by multiplex PCR

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Background: The presence of coliform bacteria is routinely assessed to establish the microbiological safety of water supplies and raw or processed foods. Coliforms are a group of lactose-fermenting Enterobacteriaceae, which most likely acquired the lacZ gene by horizontal transfer and therefore constitute a polyphyletic group. Among this group of bacteria is Escherichia coli, the pathogen that is most frequently associated with foodborne disease outbreaks and is often identified by β-glucuronidase enzymatic activity or by the redundant detection of uidA by PCR. Because a significant fraction of essential E. coli genes are preserved throughout the bacterial kingdom, alternative oligonucleotide primers for specific E. coli detection are not easily identified. Results: In this manuscript, two strategies were used to design oligonucleotide primers with differing levels of specificity for the simultaneous detection of total coliforms and E. coli by multiplex PCR. A consensus sequence of lacZ and the orphan gene yaiO were chosen as targets for amplification, yielding 234 bp and 115 bp PCR products, respectively. Conclusions: The assay designed in this work demonstrated superior detection ability when tested with lab collection and dairy isolated lactose-fermenting strains. While lacZ amplicons were found in a wide range of coliforms, yaiO amplification was highly specific for E. coli. Additionally, yaiO detection is non-redundant with enzymatic methods.




Molina, F., López-Acedo, E., Tabla, R., Roa, I., Gómez, A., & Rebollo, J. E. (2015). Improved detection of Escherichia coli and coliform bacteria by multiplex PCR. BMC Biotechnology, 15(1).

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