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Can J Vet Res. 1996 Jan;60(1):29-33.

Attempts to find phenotypic markers of the virulence plasmid of Rhodococcus equi.

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Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Immunology, University of Guelph, Ontario.


Four isolates of Rhodococcus equi, from pneumonic foals, and containing the 85 kb virulence plasmid, a porcine isolate containing an 80 kb plasmid, and their plasmid cured derivatives, were examined for 239 phenotypic properties in an attempt to find characters other than the virulence-associated protein (VapA) which might be encoded by the virulence plasmid in organisms grown at 37 degrees C. Tests chosen included those which have previously given variable results for R. equi isolates, since such variability might be attributed to plasmid curing, and characteristics which have been described as properties of plasmids of Rhodococcus species other than R. equi. Tests included cadmium resistance, Congo red binding, resistance to 26 antibiotics, conventional clinical microbiological tests, utilization of 95 different carbon sources, enzymatic activities in API ZYM, fluorogenic assays for exo- and endopeptidase, glycosidase activities, and testosterone degradation. Apart from production of VapA by foal isolates, no phenotypic property was identified in the plasmid-positive isolates. Phenotypic characteristics of R. equi that have not been described before, and might be useful in identification were: metabolism of N-acetyl-beta D-glucopyranoside, alpha- and beta-hydroxybutyric, alpha-ketobutyric and N-acetyl-glutamic acids, of methylpyruvate, heptanoate, nonanoate and stearate esters; exopeptidase activity against alanine-alanine-tyrosine, alanine-phenylalanine-lysine, glycine-arginine, lysine-alanine, and valine-glycine-alanine; endopeptidase activity against arginine and methionine; and hydrolysis of bis-phosphate ester.

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