Absolute quantification of E. coli virulence and housekeeping genes to determine pathogen loads in enumerated environmental samples

K. B. Hoorzook, T. G. Barnard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Quantifying pathogenic genes with q-PCR in complex samples to determine the pathogen loads is influenced by a wide range of factors, including choice of extraction method, standard curve, and the decision to use relative versus absolute quantification of the genes. The aim was to investigate the standardisation of q-PCR methods to determine enumerated E. coli gene ratios grown with the IDEXX Colilert® Quanti-Trays® using enteropathogenic E. coli as the model pathogen. q-PCR targeting the eaeA and gadAB genes was used to calculate the eaeA: gadAB ratios for clinical strains collected between [2005–2006 (n = 55)] and [2008–2009 (n = 19)] using the LinRegPCR software and Corbett Research Thermal cycler software. Both programs grouped the isolates into two distinct groups based on the gene ratios although the Corbett Research Thermal cycler software gave results one log higher than the LinRegPCR program. Although the eaeA: gadAB ratio range was determined using extracted E. coli DNA, the impact of free DNA and other bacteria present in the sample needed to be understood. Standard curve variations using serially diluted extracted E. coli DNA, serially diluted pure E. coli culture followed by DNA extraction from each dilution with or without other bacteria was tested using the eaeA q-PCR to quantify the genes. Comparison of the standard curves showed no significant difference between standard curves prepared with diluted DNA or with cells diluted before the DNA is extracted (P = 0.435). Significant differences were observed when background DNA was included in the diluent or Coliform cells added to the diluent to dilute cells before the DNA is extracted (P < 0.001). The “carrier” DNA and Coliform cells enhanced the DNA extraction results resulting in better PCR efficiency. This will have an influence on the quantification of gene ratios and pathogen load in samples containing lower numbers of E. coli.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0260082
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Multidisciplinary


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