Clinical samples (n=725) were collected from bovines (n=243) which were positive for mastitis using the California mastitis test (CMT) and somatic cell count (SCC). The clinical samples comprising blood (n=239), milk (n=243), and faecal swabs (n=243) were examined for the presence of pathogenic Listeria spp. Isolation of the pathogen was done using selective enrichment in University of Vermont Medium and plating onto Dominguez-Rodriguez isolation agar. Confirmation of the isolates was based on biochemical tests and Christie, Atkins, Munch-Petersen (CAMP) test followed by pathogenicity testing. Pathogenicity of the isolates was tested by phosphatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C (PI-PLC) assay as well as in vivo tests namely, chick embryo and mice inoculation tests. The isolates were subjected to PCR assay for five virulence-associated genes, plcA, prfA, hlyA, actA and iap. Listeria spp. were isolated from 12 (1.66%) samples. Of these 4 (0.55%) and 1 (0.14%) were confirmed as Listeria monocytogenes and Listeria ivanovii, respectively. L. monocytogenes and L. ivanovii were recovered from milk samples (2) and faecal (3) of mastitic cattle (3) and buffaloes (2). L. monocytogenes recovered from the milk of mastitic cattle and L. ivanovii from the faecal swab of buffalo turned out to be pathogenic. However, the remaining three hemolytic isolates exhibiting positive CAMP test turned out to be negative in PI-PLC assay, chick embryo and mice inoculation. L. monocytogenes and L. ivanovii isolates characterized as pathogenic by PI-PLC assay and in vivo pathogenicity tests were found to possess all the five virulence-associated genes and three genes, plcA, prfA and actA respectively. The remaining three hemolytic but non-pathogenic L. monocytogenes isolates were negative for plcA by PCR. It seems that the plcA gene and its expression (in the PI-PLC assay) have an important role as virulence determinants in pathogenic Listeria spp. In conclusion, the PI-PLC assay and virulence genes targeted PCR (plcA, prfA and hlyA genes for L. monocytogenes and plcA, prfA and actA genes for L. ivanovii) hold a good promise as rapid and reliable in vitro alternatives to in vivo pathogenicity tests.
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