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J Microbiol Methods. 2007 Feb;68(2):254-9. Epub 2006 Oct 10.

Use of a real time PCR assay for detection of the ctxA gene of Vibrio cholerae in an environmental survey of Mobile Bay.

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Gulf Coast Seafood Laboratory, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Dauphin Island, AL 36528, USA.


Toxigenic Vibrio cholerae, the etiological agent of cholera, is a natural inhabitant of the marine environment and causes severe diarrheal disease affecting thousands of people each year in developing countries. It is the subject of extensive testing of shrimp produced and exported from these countries. We report the development of a real time PCR (qPCR) assay to detect the gene encoding cholera toxin, ctxA, found in toxigenic V. cholerae strains. This assay was tested against DNA isolated from soil samples collected from diverse locations in the US, a panel of eukaryotic DNA from various sources, and prokaryotic DNA from closely related and unrelated bacterial sources. Only Vibrio strains known to contain ctxA generated a fluorescent signal with the 5' nuclease probe targeting the ctxA gene, thus confirming the specificity of the assay. In addition, the assay was quantitative in pure culture across a six-log dynamic range down to <10 CFU per reaction. To test the robustness of this assay, oysters, aquatic sediments, and seawaters from Mobile Bay, AL, were analyzed by qPCR and traditional culture methods. The assay was applied to overnight alkaline peptone water enrichments of these matrices after boiling the enrichments for 10 min. Toxigenic V. cholerae strains were not detected by either qPCR or conventional methods in the 16 environmental samples examined. A novel exogenous internal amplification control developed by us to prevent false negatives identified the samples that were inhibitory to the PCR. This assay, with the incorporated internal control, provides a highly specific, sensitive, and rapid detection method for the detection of toxigenic strains of V. cholerae.

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