A new, rapid, sensitive and specific method was developed to directly detect and quantify tetA and tetB in food. Both tet genes are two of the most frequently present tetracycline resistance genes in gram-negative bacteria. A set of primers and Taqman probes was designed for each gene. The standard curves were performed using Escherichia coli BM13 (C600 RifR)/RP4 and E. coli NCTC 50365, which carry tetA and tetB, respectively. Meat and fish samples inoculated with these reference strains were used as a matrix to construct the standard curves for the analysis of 20 samples of chicken meat and 10 samples of hake (Merlucius merlucius). The limits of detection in pure culture were 5 cfu/mL (0.7 log cfu/mL) in the case of tetA, 50 cfu/mL (1.7log cfu/mL) for tetB and 5×10(2)cfu/g (2.7 log cfu/g) for both genes in food samples. The results obtained by real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) were compared to counts of tetracycline-resistant bacteria obtained by plating extracts of poultry and hake samples in culture media supplemented with 16 mg/L of tetracycline. Counts of tetracycline-resistant bacteria obtained by qPCR showed a positive correlation, especially interesting when compared with microbiological counts of tetracycline-resistant Enterobacteriaceae in poultry meat (r=0.5509) and with tetracycline-resistant mesophilic aerobic bacteria in hake samples (r=0.7146). The obtained results demonstrate that this method could be a useful tool for the direct quantification of the amount of bacterial strains that carry tetA and/or tetB genes in food samples.
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