Shiga-like toxin-producing (SLT) , particularly those belonging to serogroup O157, are responsible for haemorrhagic colitis, haemolytic uraemic syndrome and some cases of gastro-enteritis. The rapid and reliable diagnosis of all these infections is necessary for correct patient management and for epidemiological reasons, but is rarely possible with present methods. We compared the efficacy of two methods, (i) the culture of faeces in broth that contained mitomycin C followed by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for SLTs, and (ii) the culture of faeces on sorbitol MacConkey agar (SMA), in the detection of infections caused by SLT-producing SLT-producing O157 strains were isolated on SMA from 42 of 475 faecal samples, but SLTs were detected by ELISA in culture supernates or lysates of 54 of 475 samples. SLT-producing strains were isolated subsequently from 11 of 12 ELISA-positive, SMA culture-negative samples by a colony blot technique. In four cases, SLT-producing of serogroups other than O157 were isolated and in seven cases O157 was isolated in small numbers. The ELISA is a rapid and sensitive technique for the diagnosis of SLT-producing infection, especially where low numbers of the organism are present in faeces and when the infection is caused by a serogroup other than O157.


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