Detection of enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli in foods by polymerase chain reaction

Luisa Maria Siniscalchi, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) causes significant morbidity and mortality in infants of developing countries and is the most common cause of diarrhea in travelers to these areas. Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli infections are commonly caused by ingestion of fecally contaminated food. A timely method for the detection of ETEC in foods would be important in the prevention of this disease. A multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay which has been successful in detecting the heat-labile and heat-stable toxins of ETEC in stool was examined to determine its utility in foods. This PCR assay, preceded by a glass matrix and chaotropic DNA extraction, was effective in detecting high numbers of ETEC in a variety of foods. Ninety percent of 121 spiked food samples yielded positive results. Samples of salsa from Guadalajara, Mexico and Houston, Texas were collected and underwent DNA extraction and PCR. All samples yielded negative results for both the heat-labile and heat-stable toxins. Samples were also subjected to oligonucleotide probe analysis and resulted in 5 samples positive for ETEC. Upon dilution testing, it was found that positive PCR results only occurred when 12,000 to 1,000,000 bacteria were present in 200 mg of food. Although the DNA extraction and PCR method has been shown to be both sensitive and specific in stool, similar results were not obtained in food samples.

Subject Area

Microbiology|Public health|Food science

Recommended Citation

Siniscalchi, Luisa Maria, "Detection of enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli in foods by polymerase chain reaction" (1999). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9929467.