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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2009 Jan;75(2):329-36. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01367-08. Epub 2008 Nov 14.

Genotypic and phenotypic diversity among induced, stx2-carrying bacteriophages from environmental Escherichia coli strains.

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Departament de Microbiologia, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, 08028 Barcelona, Spain.


Shiga toxin 2 (stx(2)) gene-carrying bacteriophages have been shown to convert Escherichia coli strains to Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC). In this study, 79 E. coli strains belonging to 35 serotypes isolated from wastewaters of both human and animal origin were examined for the presence of stx(2)-carrying bacteriophages in their genomes. The lytic cycle of the bacteriophages was induced by mitomycin, and the bacteriophage fraction was isolated and used for morphological and genetic characterization. The induced bacteriophages showed morphological diversity, as well as restriction fragment length polymorphism variation, in the different strains belonging to different serotypes. The ability to infect new hosts was highly variable, although most of the induced phages infected Shigella sonnei host strain 866. In summary, in spite of carrying either the same or different stx(2) variants and in spite of the fact that they were isolated from strains belonging to the same or different serotypes, the induced bacteriophages were highly variable. The high level of diversity and the great infectious capacity of these phages could enhance the spread of the stx(2) gene and variants of this gene among different bacterial populations in environments to which humans may be exposed.

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