Widespread occurrence of bacterial human virulence determinants in soil and freshwater environments

Ditte Andreasen Søborg, Niels Bohse Hendriksen, Mogens Kilian, Niels Kroer

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The occurrence of 22 bacterial human virulence genes (encoding toxins, adhesins, secretion systems, regulators of virulence, inflammatory mediators, and bacterial resistance) in beech wood soil, roadside soil, organic agricultural soil, and freshwater biofilm was investigated by nested PCR. The presence of clinically relevant bacterial groups known to possess virulence genes was tested by PCR of 16S and 23S rRNA genes. For each of the virulence genes detected in the environments, sequencing and NCBI BLAST analysis confirmed the identity of the PCR products. The virulence genes showed widespread environmental occurrence, as 17 different genes were observed. Sixteen genes were detected in beech wood soil, and 14 were detected in roadside and organic agricultural soils, while 11 were detected in the freshwater biofilm. All types of virulence traits were represented in all environments; however, the frequency at which they were detected was variable. A principal-component analysis suggested that several factors influenced the presence of the virulence genes; however, their distribution was most likely related to the level of contamination by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and pH. The occurrence of the virulence genes in the environments generally did not appear to be the result of the presence of clinically relevant bacteria, indicating an environmental origin of the virulence genes. The widespread occurrence of the virulence traits and the high degree of sequence conservation between the environmental and clinical sequences suggest that soil and freshwater environments may constitute reservoirs of virulence determinants normally associated with human disease.
TidsskriftApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Udgave nummer18
Sider (fra-til)5488-97
StatusUdgivet - sep. 2013
Udgivet eksterntJa