Characterization of verotoxin-encoding phages from escherichia coli o103:h2 strains of bovine and human origins

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The objectives of this study were to induce and characterize verotoxin-encoding phages from a collection of 91 verotoxin-producing Escherichia coli (VTEC) O103:H2 strains of human and bovine origins. All the strains carried the vt1 gene, and two carried the vt2 gene as well. The phages were induced by UV irradiation and characterized by DNA restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP), genome size, morphology, and Q and P genes, characteristic of lambdoid phages. A total of 32 vt-positive phages were induced and isolated from 31 VTEC O103:H2 strains. Thirty phages were vt1 positive, and two were vt2 positive. Ten of the 30 vt1-positive phages (33.3%) were from cattle strains, and 20 (66.6%) were from human strains. The two vt2-positive phages were from human strains. Phages belonged to 21 RFLP profiles, of which 17 were single-phage profiles and 4 were multiple-phage profiles. The estimated genome size of the phages ranged from 34 to 84 kb. Two phages that were examined by electron microscopy possessed hexagonal heads with long tails, and one had an elongated head with a long tail. The Q and P genes were amplified in all 32 phages, and the Q-stxA1 gene region yielded an amplicon in 19 phages (59.3%). It is concluded that the VTEC O103:H2 strains of human origin were more readily inducible than those of bovine origin and that the genotypic profiles of verotoxin-encoding phages were highly diverse, as revealed by their RFLP profiles.

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