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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1999 Dec;65(12):5615-8.

Comparative survival of free shiga toxin 2-encoding phages and Escherichia coli strains outside the gut.

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  • 1Department de Microbiologia, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.


The behavior outside the gut of seeded Escherichia coli O157:H7, naturally occurring E. coli, somatic coliphages, bacteriophages infecting O157:H7, and Shiga toxin 2 (Stx2)-encoding bacteriophages was studied to determine whether the last persist in the environment more successfully than their host bacteria. The ratios between the numbers of E. coli and those of the different bacteriophages were clearly lower in river water than in sewage of the area, whereas the ratios between the numbers of the different phages were similar. In addition, the numbers of bacteria decreased between 2 and 3 log units in in situ survival experiments performed in river water, whereas the numbers of phages decreased between 1 and 2 log units. Chlorination and pasteurization treatments that reduced by approximately 4 log units the numbers of bacteria reduced by less than 1 log unit the numbers of bacteriophages. Thus, it can be concluded that Stx2-encoding phages persist longer than their host bacteria in the water environment and are more resistant than their host bacteria to chlorination and heat treatment.

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