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Abstract

Shiga toxin-producing (STEC) are a cause of severe human illness and are frequently associated with haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) in children. It remains difficult to identify virulence factors for STEC that absolutely predict the potential to cause human disease. In addition to the Shiga-toxin ( genes), many additional factors have been reported, such as intimin ( gene), which is clearly an aggravating factor for developing HUS. Current STEC detection methods classically rely on real-time PCR (qPCR) to detect the presence of the key virulence markers ( and ). Although qPCR gives an insight into the presence of these virulence markers, it is not appropriate for confirming their presence in the same strain. Therefore, isolation steps are necessary to confirm STEC viability and characterize STEC genomes. While STEC isolation is laborious and time-consuming, metagenomics has the potential to accelerate the STEC characterization process in an isolation-free manner. Recently, short-read sequencing metagenomics have been applied for this purpose, but assembly quality and contiguity suffer from the high proportion of mobile genetic elements occurring in STEC strains. To circumvent this problem, we used long-read sequencing metagenomics for identifying -positive STEC strains using raw cow's milk as a causative matrix for STEC food-borne outbreaks. By comparing enrichment conditions, optimizing library preparation for MinION sequencing and generating an easy-to-use STEC characterization pipeline, the direct identification of an -positive STEC strain was successful after enrichment of artificially contaminated raw cow's milk samples at a contamination level as low as 5 c.f.u. ml. Our newly developed method combines optimized enrichment conditions of STEC in raw milk in combination with a complete STEC analysis pipeline from long-read sequencing metagenomics data. This study shows the potential of the innovative methodology for characterizing STEC strains from complex matrices. Further developments will nonetheless be necessary for this method to be applied in STEC surveillance.

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2022-11-24
2024-02-26
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