Development of rapid phage based detection methods for mycobacteria

Swift, Benjamin M.C. (2014) Development of rapid phage based detection methods for mycobacteria. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Abstract

MAP is the causative agent of a wasting disease in ruminants and other animals called Johne’s disease. Culture of the organism can take months and in the case of some sheep strains of MAP, culture can take up to a year. It can take several years for an animal infected with MAP to show clinical symptoms of disease. During this subclinical stage of infection, MAP can be shed into the environment contaminating their surroundings and infecting other animals. As well as this Johne’s disease is particularly difficult to diagnose during the subclinical stage of infection.

Culture is very difficult and takes too long to be a viable method to diagnose Johne’s disease. Microscopic methods can be used on histological samples to detect MAP, however common acid-fast stains used are not specific for MAP and other mycobacteria and acid-fast organisms can be detected. Molecular methods, such as PCR, exist to rapidly detect the signature DNA sequences of these organisms, however they have the disadvantage of not being able to distinguish between live and dead organisms. Other immunological methods, such as ELISA tests, exist and are routinely used to diagnose Johne’s disease, however their sensitivity is very poor especially during the subclinical stage of disease.

The aim of these studies was to develop novel rapid methods of detecting MAP to act as an alternative to methods already available. Sample processing using magnetic separation was carried out to allow good capture of MAP cells and to allow efficient phage infection. Using the phage assay, a specific, sensitive phage based method was developed that could detect approximately 10 cells per ml of blood within 24 h in the laboratory with a sensitive, specific plaque-PCR.

This optimised detection method was then used to determine whether MAP cells could be detected in clinical blood samples of cattle suffering from Johne’s disease. The results suggest that animals experimentally and naturally infected with MAP harboured cells in their blood during subclinical and clinical stages of infection.

A novel high-throughput method of detecting mycobacteria was also developed. Using phage D29 as a novel mycobacterial DNA extraction tool, viable MAP cells were detected within 8 h and the format of the assay means that it can be adapted to be used in a high-throughput capacity.

Factors affecting phage infection and phage-host interactions were investigated to make sure the phage based methods of detection were as efficient as possible. It was found that periods of recovery were often necessary to not only make sure the phage were not inhibited but to also allow the host cells to be metabolically active as it was found that phage D29 can only infect mycobacteria cells that are metabolically active.

A fluorescent fusion-peptide capable of specifically labelling MAP cells was also developed to be used as an alternative to acid-fast staining. Peptides that were found to specifically bind to MAP cells were fused with green fluorescent protein and cells mounted on slides were specifically labelled with the fluorescent fusion protein. This resulted in a good alternative to the generic acid-fast staining methods.

The blood phage assay has shown that viable MAP cells can be found in the blood of animals suffering from Johne’s disease within 24 h and this can be confirmed using a MAP specific plaque-PCR protocol. A novel faster method to detect MAP was also developed, to cut down the time to detection of viable MAP cells to 8 h, which can be formatted to be used in a high-throughput capacity. The phage assay was used as a tool to determine different metabolic states of mycobacteria, and helped investigate optimal detection conditions when using the phage assay. Finally a novel fluorescent label was developed to detect MAP as an alternative to insensitive acid-fast staining. The development of these novel methods to rapidly, specifically and sensitively detect MAP will push further the understanding of Johne’s disease and help control it.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Rees, C.E.D.
Huxley, J.N.
Subjects: Q Science > QR Microbiology > QR 75 Bacteria. Cyanobacteria
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Science > School of Biosciences
Item ID: 14225
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 11 Jul 2016 09:30
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2016 05:51
URI: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/14225

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