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J Microbiol Methods. 2012 Nov;91(2):240-5. doi: 10.1016/j.mimet.2012.08.017. Epub 2012 Sep 4.

Development and application of a method for the purification of free shigatoxigenic bacteriophage from environmental samples.

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Microbiology Research Group, Institute of Integrative Biology, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, L69 7ZB, United Kingdom.


Shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains are foodborne pathogens whose ability to produce Shiga toxin (Stx) is due to the integration of Stx-encoding lambdoid bacteriophage (Stx phage). Circulating, infective Stx phages are very difficult to isolate, purify and propagate such that there is no information on their genetic composition and properties. Here we describe a novel approach that exploits the phage's ability to infect their host and form a lysogen, thus enabling purification of Stx phages by a series of sequential lysogen isolation and induction steps. A total of 15 Stx phages were rigorously purified from water samples in this way, classified by TEM and genotyped using a PCR-based multi-loci characterisation system. Each phage possessed only one variant of each target gene type, thus confirming its purity, with 9 of the 15 phages possessing a short tail-spike gene and identified by TEM as Podoviridae. The remaining 6 phages possessed long tails, four of which appeared to be contractile in nature (Myoviridae) and two of which were morphologically very similar to bacteriophage lambda (Siphoviridae).

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