Real-time Screening of Foods Using Repetitive Element PCR Reveals a DNA Marker Characteristic for Enterotoxigenic Bacillus Species
Bacillus cereus is traditionally thought to be the only member of its genus accepted as a pathogen in foods like grains, fruits, vegetables, and milk due to the presence of the nonhemolytic (Nhe) operon. However, many other Bacillus spp. may also harbor the Nhe operon and be pathogenic, including not just food-associated gastrointestinal toxicoinfections, but human endophthalmitis as well. Real-time PCR targeted the nheA gene in 37 samples obtained from food, soil, and reference cultures by analyzing the standard deviations of melt peaks. Repetitive element PCR was used to compare the banding patterns of each sample against B. cereus ATCC 14579 and three B. thuringiensis strains to “fingerprint” each isolate. Of the original 43 isolated tested, 37 were Gram-positive rods. The remaining six samples were Gram-positive cocci. Twenty-five of the 37 Gram-positive Bacillus spp. were nheA positive, while twelve were negative. Many of the nheA positive strains were species not previously known to contain Nhe and were capable of causing gastroenteritis in consumers.
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