Aims: The verotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTEC) serotype most commonly associated with verotoxin (VT) production is O157:H7, but other serotypes have also been implicated in food-borne illness. These serotypes exhibit much greater genetic and biochemical diversity than E. coli O157:H7, making screening for all VTEC difficult. Here we describe development and testing of novel multi-analyte antibody-based dipstick methods for presumptive detection of VTEC cells and VTs, including non-O157 serotypes. Methods and Results: The dipsticks are formatted as paddle-style and lateral flow devices. Test materials included raw milk, minced beef, apple juice and salami, spiked with VTEC. Prototype paddle dipsticks gave 47 of 48 E. coli O157-positive samples correct, and, simultaneously, 27 of 31 O26-positive samples correct, across the four food types. Prototype lateral flow dipsticks gave 12 of 12 E. coli O157-positive milk samples correct and, simultaneously, 28 of 28 positive VT samples correct. Conclusions: This work demonstrates that simple and rapid detection of more than one VTEC characteristic (toxin production and type, serogroup) is possible in a single dipstick test device, directly from a food enrichment culture. Significance and Impact of the Study: The development of simple easy-to-use rapid methods for simultaneous detection and preliminary characterization of VTEC will enable the risk presented by all VTEC to be more thoroughly assessed (e.g. in surveillance studies, outbreak investigations).
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