Production of diarrheal enterotoxins and other potential virulence factors by veterinary isolates of Bacillus species associated with nongastrointestinal infections

Neil J. Rowan, George Caldow, Curtis G. Gemmell, Iain S. Hunter

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With the exceptions of Bacillus cereus and Bacillus anthracis, Bacillus species are generally perceived to be inconsequential. However, the relevance of other Bacillus species as food poisoning organisms and etiological agents in nongastrointestinal infections is being increasingly recognized. Eleven Bacillus species isolated from veterinary samples associated with severe nongastrointestinal infections were assessed for the presence and expression of diarrheagenic enterotoxins and other potential virulence factors. PCR studies revealed the presence of DNA sequences encoding hemolysin BL (HBL) enterotoxin complex and B. cereus enterotoxin T (BceT) in five B. cereus strains and in Bacillus coagulans NB11. Enterotoxin HBL was also harbored by Bacillus polymyxa NB6. After 18 h of growth in brain heart infusion broth, all seven Bacillus isolates carrying genes encoding enterotoxin HBL produced this toxin. Cell-free supernatant fluids from all 11 Bacillus isolates demonstrated cytotoxicity toward human HEp-2 cells; only one Bacillus licheniformis strain adhered to this test cell line, and none of the Bacillus isolates were invasive. This study constitutes the first demonstration that Bacillus spp. associated with serious nongastrointestinal infections in animals may harbor and express diarrheagenic enterotoxins traditionally linked to toxigenic B. cereus.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2372-2376
Number of pages5
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2003


  • milk formulas
  • toxigenic strains
  • emetic toxin
  • hemolydin BL
  • cereus
  • antharcis
  • plasmids

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