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J Clin Microbiol. 1995 Nov;33(11):2968-72.

Identification of widespread Helicobacter hepaticus infection in feces in commercial mouse colonies by culture and PCR assay.

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  • 1Division of Comparative Medicine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts.


The identification of a new murine pathogen, Helicobacter hepaticus, and its association with chronic active hepatitis and liver tumors prompted an evaluation of the prevalence of H. hepaticus in commercially available mice. Of the 28 different strains or stocks, totaling 160 mice from four major commercial vendors, cultured for H. hepaticus, 100% of mice from two outbred strains from one vendor were infected with H. hepaticus, whereas 9 of 13 inbred mouse strains from another vendor were infected. This high prevalence of H. hepaticus established a need for a rapid and reproducible, noninvasive assay for the screening of colony-maintained mice being used for biomedical research. The culturing of fecal material by using 0.45-microns-pore- size filtration for H. hepaticus consistently yielded reproducible results but required extended periods of time. (1 to 3 weeks) to obtain a definitive answer. Although it is rapid, the use of a direct PCR-based detection assay with fecal specimens is restricted by inhibitory agents. to circumvent these inhibitory agents and to augment our H. hepaticus culture technique, we have developed a novel PCR system in which the bacteria are isolated from fecal material in the presence of polyvinylpyropyrollidone and lysed by treatment with Chelex 100. The PCR is performed with Tth polymerase supplemented with a polymerase enhancer. By this PCR method, 24 H. hepaticus culture-positive and 30 H. hepaticus culture-negative fecal samples were correctly identified. Moreover, two samples which were PCR positive and culture negative initially were positive by both methods upon retesting of fresh material. Southern blot hybridizations and sequencing of PCR products showed them to be H. hepaticus specific. A comparison of results obtained under identical conditions indicated a 100-fold increase in sensitivity with Tth polymerase over Taq polymerase. This PCR method can be used as a noninvasive means of rapidly screening large numbers of colony mice for H. hepaticus.

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