September 22, 2019  |  

In situ analyses directly in diarrheal stool reveal large variations in bacterial load and active toxin expression of enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli and Vibrio cholerae.

Authors: Begum, Yasmin Ara and Rydberg, Hanna A and Thorell, Kaisa and Kwak, Young-Keun and Sun, Lei and Joffré, Enrique and Qadri, Firdausi and Sjöling, Åsa

The bacterial pathogens enterotoxigenicEscherichia coli(ETEC) andVibrio choleraeare major causes of diarrhea. ETEC causes diarrhea by production of the heat-labile toxin (LT) and heat-stable toxins (STh and STp), whileV. choleraeproduces cholera toxin (CT). In this study, we determined the occurrence and bacterial doses of the two pathogens and their respective toxin expression levels directly in liquid diarrheal stools of patients in Dhaka, Bangladesh. By quantitative culture and real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR) detection of the toxin genes, the two pathogens were found to coexist in several of the patients, at concentrations between 102and 108bacterial gene copies per ml. Even in culture-negative samples, gene copy numbers of 102to 104of either ETEC orV. choleraetoxin genes were detected by qPCR. RNA was extracted directly from stool, and gene expression levels, quantified by reverse transcriptase qPCR (RT-qPCR), of the genes encoding CT, LT, STh, and STp showed expression of toxin genes. Toxin enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) confirmed active toxin secretion directly in the liquid diarrhea. Analysis of ETEC isolates by multiplex PCR, dot blot analysis, and genome sequencing suggested that there are genetic ETEC profiles that are more commonly found as dominating single pathogens and others that are coinfectants with lower bacterial loads. The ETEC genomes, including assembled genomes of dominating ETEC isolates expressing LT/STh/CS5/CS6 and LT/CS7, are provided. In addition, this study highlights an emerging important ETEC strain expressing LT/STp and the novel colonization factor CS27b. These findings have implications for investigations of pathogenesis as well as for vaccine development. IMPORTANCEThe cause of diarrheal disease is usually determined by screening for several microorganisms by various methods, and sole detection is used to assign the agent as the cause of disease. However, it has become increasingly clear that many infections are caused by coinfections with several pathogens and that the dose of the infecting pathogen is important. We quantified the absolute numbers of enterotoxigenicE. coli(ETEC) andVibrio choleraedirectly in diarrheal fluid. We noted several events where both pathogens were found but also a large dose dependency. In three samples, we found ETEC as the only pathogen sought for. These isolates belonged to globally distributed ETEC clones and were the dominating species in stool with active toxin expression. This suggests that certain superior virulent ETEC lineages are able to outcompete the gut microbiota and be the sole cause of disease and hence need to be specifically monitored.

Journal: mSphere
DOI: 10.1128/mSphere.00517-17
Year: 2018

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