Shiga toxin and Shiga-like toxins (SLTs, syn. Verotoxins) are currently detected by tissue culture assays that are expensive, time-consuming and require specialised facilities and experienced personnel. We have developed a rapid method to detect Shiga toxin and SLT-I (Verotoxin 1) based on their binding to globotriosyl ceramide (Gb). Bound toxin was then detected by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) with monoclonal antibodies. The direct detection of cytotoxins from pure culture plates and from a mixed bacterial culture was studied. Using polymyxin extraction (0.1 g/L, 30 min, 37°C) and Gb-based ELISA we detected toxin from reference strains 1 strain 60R (Shiga toxin) and 026: H11 strain H30 (SLT-I), and from clinical isolates of O157: H7 and O26: H11 (both SLT-I) from 11 patients with diarrhoea, haemorrhagic colitis or haemolytic uraemic syndrome. Toxin production by these strains was confirmed by a radiolabelled HeLa cell assay and the structural genes were detected by DNA hybridisation. The Gb-based ELISA could detect SLT-I in extracts of a mixed culture even when the toxin-positive strains represented only 1% of the mixture. No cross-reactivity was found with bacteria that produce other cytotoxins, such as other and and spp.


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