Molecular quantification of virulence gene-containing Aeromonas in water samples collected from different drinking water treatment processes.
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Pathogenic species of Aeromonas produce a range of virulence factors, including aerolysin, cytotonic enterotoxins, and serine protease, to cause acute gastroenteritis and wound infections in humans and animals. Recognizing that not all Aeromonas strains are pathogenic, in this study, we proposed to evaluate Aeromonas removal effectiveness based on the presence of virulence gene-containing Aeromonas as a proper means to assess microbial risk of Aeromonas. We developed and applied real-time PCR assays to quantify serine protease (ser) gene- and heat-labile cytotonic enterotoxin (alt) gene-containing Aeromonas in water samples. Among 18 Aeromonas isolates from the source water, only three isolates possessed all three genes (aer, ser, and alt). A higher percent of isolates has either ser gene (89%) or alt gene (72%) compared to the percent of isolates containing aer gene (44%). Results of this study suggested that several different conventional and unconventional drinking water treatment processes could effectively remove Aeromonas from source water. As the comprehensive knowledge of the distribution of virulence factors in different Aeromonas species is currently not available, using real-time PCR to quantify various virulence factor genes in water samples and/or isolates can be a practical means for better assessment of microbial risks in water.