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J Microbiol Methods. 2008 May;73(2):125-32. doi: 10.1016/j.mimet.2008.01.014. Epub 2008 Feb 11.

The effect of probiotics and organic acids on Shiga-toxin 2 gene expression in enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli O157:H7.

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Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Guelph Food Research Center, 93 Stone Road West, Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 5C9.


Probiotics are known to have an inhibitory effect against the growth of various foodborne pathogens, however, the specific role of probiotics in Shiga-toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) virulence gene expression has not been well defined. Shiga toxins are members of a family of highly potent bacterial toxins and are the main virulence marker for STEC. Shiga toxins inhibit protein synthesis in eukaryotic cells and play a role in hemorrhagic colitis and hemolytic uremic syndrome. STEC possesses Shiga toxin 1 (Stx1) and Shiga toxin 2 (Stx2), both of which have A and B subunits. Although STEC containing both Stx1 and Stx2 has been isolated from patients with hemorrhagic colitis, Stx2 is more frequently associated with human disease complications. Thus, the effect of Lactobacillus, Pediococcus, and Bifidobacterium strains on stx2A expression levels in STEC was investigated. Lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria were isolated from farm animals, dairy, and human sources and included L. rhamnosus GG, L. curvatus, L. plantarum, L. jensenii, L. acidophilus, L. casei, L. reuteri, P. acidilactici, P. cerevisiae, P. pentosaceus, B. thermophilum, B. boum, B. suis and B. animalis. E. coli O157:H7 (EDL 933) was coincubated with sub-lethal concentrations of each probiotic strain. Following RNA extraction and cDNA synthesis, relative stx2A mRNA levels were determined according to a comparative critical threshold (Ct) real-time PCR. Data were normalized to the endogenous control glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) and the level of stx2A expression between treated and untreated STEC was compared. Observed for all probiotic strains tested, stx2A was down-regulated, when compared to the control culture. Probiotic production of organic acids, as demonstrated by a decrease in pH, influenced stx2A gene expression.

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