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    Shiga toxin (Stx) phages can be induced from Stx-producing Escherichia coli strains (STEC) or can be isolated as free virions from different samples. Here we describe methods used for the detection, enumeration, and isolation of Stx bacteriophages. Stx phages are temperate phages located in the genome of STEC. Their induction from the host strain cultures is achieved by different inducing agents, mitomycin C being one of the most commonly used. Detection of infectious Stx phages requires the production of visible plaques in a confluent lawn of the host strain using a double agar layer method. However, as the plaques produced by Stx phages are often barely visible and there is a possibility that non-Stx phages can also be induced from the strain, a hybridization step should be added to recognize and properly enumerate the lysis plaques generated after induction. Molecular methods can also be used to identify and enumerate Stx phages. Real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR) is the most accurate method for absolute quantification, although it cannot determine the infectivity of Stx phages. qPCR can also be useful for the detection of free Stx phage virions in different sample types.Stx phages induced from lysogenic bacterial strains can be purified by cesium chloride density gradients; this protocol also helps to specifically discriminate Stx phages from other prophages present in the genome of the host strain by selecting the phages expressing the Stx gene. High titer suspensions of Stx phages obtained after induction of large volumes of bacterial cultures and lysate concentration permits phage characterization by electron microscopy studies and genomic analysis.


    Lorena Rodríguez-Rubio, Maite Muniesa. Isolation and Characterization of Shiga Toxin Bacteriophages. Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.). 2021;2291:119-144

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    PMID: 33704751

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