The genus Helicobacter includes 23 species of microaerobic bacteria, mostly isolated from gastrointestinal tract of animals and humans. About ten of these species have been related to be human pathogens, being H. pylori the most significant one.
Helicobacter transmission routes remain poorly understood, but some studies have suggested that water and food are environmental sources of infection. Current methods for the detection of Helicobacter in environmental samples include filtration, immunomagnetic separation [IMS], immunostaining and molecular methods such as PCR and probe hybridization. Culture is the most specific diagnostic method, but isolation of helicobacters is difficult and time consuming, due to the slow growth and fastidious culture conditions.
Due to its high sensitivity, specificity and rapid results, PCR is an efficient alternative to conventional methods. Recently, real-time quantitative PCR has shown to be an efficient and accurate method for fast detection of Helicobacter. rRNA fluorescent-probe in situ hybridization (FISH) is a rapid method without culture, less prone to inhibition than PCR, in which positive results may be directly observed in the sample. This method also allows for the detection of viable but non-culturable forms and antibiotic resistant cells.
Molecular approach to the detection of this microorganism can be advantageous for Helicobacter detection and typing. Furthermore, a combination of culturing and molecular techniques could be an excellent tool to detect Helicobacter in environmental samples.
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