Improved traceability of Shiga-toxin-producing Escherichia coli using CRISPRs for detection and typing
Among strains of Shiga-toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), seven serogroups (O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, O145, and O157) are frequently associated with severe clinical illness in humans. The development of methods for their reliable detection from complex samples such as food has been challenging thus far, and is currently based on the PCR detection of the major virulence genes stx1, stx2, and eae, and O-serogroup-specific genes. However, this approach lacks resolution. Moreover, new STEC serotypes are continuously emerging worldwide. For example, in May 2011, strains belonging to the hitherto rarely detected STEC serotype O104:H4 were identified as causative agents of one of the world’s largest outbreak of disease with a high incidence of hemorrhagic colitis and hemolytic uremic syndrome in the infected patients. Discriminant typing of pathogens is crucial for epidemiological surveillance and investigations of outbreaks, and especially for tracking and tracing in case of accidental and deliberate contamination of food and water samples. Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs) are composed of short, highly conserved DNA repeats separated by unique sequences of similar length. This distinctive sequence signature of CRISPRs can be used for strain typing in several bacterial species including STEC. This review discusses how CRISPRs have recently been used for STEC identification and typing.