Forty eight samples (30 wastewater and 18 river water) were collected between July and November, 2010, from different sources in Cape Town, South Africa in order to characterize verotoxic non O157: H7 Escherichia coli strains. Samples (1 ml) were inoculated into MacConkey broth (MB, 9 ml) and incubated at 37°C for 24 h, after which a loopful of the MB was then spread onto Eosin Methylene Blue (EMB) and further incubated for 24 h at 37°C in order to isolate E. coli. The identification of isolates was done using standard biochemical procedures; and confirmed serologically using E. coli polyvalent antisera (Bioweb, SA). Isolates were also characterized for virulence factors such as verotoxin, haemolysin, gelatinase, extended spectrum beta lactamases (ESBLs), cell surface hydrophobicity and bacterial serum resistance, as well as susceptibility (using disc diffusion method) to stem bark extracts of Curtisia dentata. Results showed the presence of different serotypes of E. coli (69 isolates in all) including 026: H11, 055, O111: NM, O126, O44, O124, O96:H9, O103:H2, O145: NM and O145:H2. Over 60% of the isolates exhibited serum resistance, haemolysin and gelatinase production, 81% exhibited cell surface hydrophobicity and over 52% produced ESBLs. Results also showed that while 60% of the isolates showed various levels of resistance to different antibiotics [ampicillin (10 µg), cefuroxime, cephalexin, ceftazidime and tetracycline (30 µg in each case) (multidrug resistance index (MDRI) values 4.20 to 5.60%)], only 28% were resistant to ethanol stem bark extracts of C. dentata (MIC, 70 to 150 mg/ml). The presence of pathogenic verotoxic antibiotic resistant E. coli in these water sources is a threat to water quality and food security and C. dentata has a potential for sourcing novel antibiotic substances for chemotherapy against these resistant pathogenic strains of E. coli.
Key words: Curtisia dentata, Escherichia coli, haemolysins, cell surface hydrophobicity, gelatinase, plant extracts, verotoxins.
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