• Bacillus cereus;
  • toxin gene profiles;
  • toxin production

Abstract: Bacillus cereus can cause diarrheal and emetic type of food poisoning but little study has been done on the main toxins of food poisoning caused by B. cereus in Korea. The objective of this study is to characterize the toxin gene profiles and toxin-producing ability of 120 B. cereus isolates from clinical and food samples in Korea. The detection rate of nheABC, hblCDA, entFM, and cytK enterotoxin gene among all B. cereus strains was 94.2, 90.0, 65.8, and 52.5%, respectively. The ces gene encoding emetic toxin was not detected in all strains. Bacillus cereus strains carried at least 1 of the 8 enterotoxin genes were classified into 12 groups according to the presence or absence of 8 virulence genes. The 3 major patterns, I (nheABC, hblCDA, entFM, and cytK gene), II (nheABC, hblCDA and entFM gene), and VI (nheABC and hblCDA gene), accounted for 79.2% of all strains (95 out of 120 B. cereus isolates). Non-hemolytic enterotoxin (NHE) and hemolysin BL (HBL) enterotoxins were produced by 107 and 100 strains, respectively. Our finding revealed that NHE and HBL enterotoxins encoded by nhe and hbl genes were the major toxins among B. cereus tested in this study and enterotoxic type of B. cereus was predominant in Korea.