Development of a phage-based diagnostic test for the identification of Clostridium difficile
thesisposted on 2016-02-17, 10:58 authored by Anisha M. Thanki
Clostridium difficile is the most common bacterial cause of infectious diarrhoea in healthcare environments and in 2014 was responsible for 13,785 infections in the UK. C. difficile infection (CDI) is spread via the faecal-oral route and by contact with contaminated surfaces. However, despite the healthcare concerns no tests are available to validate if sufficient cleaning has been conducted. In addition, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and Enzyme Immunoassays (EIAs)-based tests used to diagnose CDI lack sensitivity and specificity and hence false negative results are commonly obtained. To overcome these concerns the aim of the PhD research has been to develop the first diagnostic test that exploits the specific interactions of C. difficile bacteriophages (phages), viruses that specifically infect and kill C. difficile. In order to develop a C. difficile phage-based test, first suitable phages that can be used for the test were identified and this was conducted by screening 35 different C. difficile phages against 160 clinically relevant C. difficile isolates. Five phages were found to infect the most number of isolates and were investigated further to identify whether a phage-based diagnostic could be developed based on phages binding (adsorption) to different C. difficile subgroups. However, for all five phages, adsorption rates were not consistently high for C. difficile subgroups in comparison to other common bacteria found in similar locations to C. difficile. Therefore, to increase specificity of the phage-based diagnostic test a new approach was taken by tagging two phages with luminescence luxAB genes (reporter phages), which would be expressed once C. difficile cells were infected with the phages. To design the C. difficile reporter phages, non-essential phage genes were replaced with the luxAB genes, but this study revealed mutagenesis of C. difficile was troublesome and extensive optimisation was required. In addition, once the reporter phages had successfully been constructed the luxAB genes were unstable within the phage genome and were lost during phage replication. Despite extensive optimisation and due to time constrains the luxAB genes were not stabilised within the phages but future work will focus on stabilising the genes.
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