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Methods for Genotyping Verotoxin-Producing Escherichia coli


C. L. Gyles. Department of Pathobiology, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada N1G 2W1. Tel.: 519 824 4120 (54657); Fax: 519 824 5930; E-mail:


Verotoxin-producing Escherichia coli (VTEC) is annually incriminated in more than 100 000 cases of enteric foodborne human disease and in losses amounting to $US 2.5 billion every year. A number of genotyping methods have been developed to track VTEC infections and determine diversity and evolutionary relationships among these microorganisms. These methods have facilitated monitoring and surveillance of foodborne VTEC outbreaks and early identification of outbreaks or clusters of outbreaks. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) has been used extensively to track and differentiate VTEC because of its high discriminatory power, reproducibility and ease of standardization. Multiple-locus variable-number tandem-repeats analysis (MLVA) and microarrays are the latest genotyping methods that have been applied to discriminate VTEC. MLVA, a simpler and less expensive method, is proving to have a discriminatory power comparable to that of PFGE. Microarrays are successfully being applied to differentiate VTEC and make inferences on genome diversification. Novel methods that are being evaluated for subtyping VTEC include the detection of single nucleotide polymorphisms and optical mapping. This review discusses the principles, applications, advantages and disadvantages of genotyping methods that have been used to differentiate VTEC strains. These methods have been mainly used to differentiate strains of O157:H7 VTEC and to a lesser extent non-O157 VTEC.