Shiga toxins (Stx) have a definite role in the development of hemolytic uremic syndrome in children with hemorrhagic colitis caused by pathogenic Stx-producing Escherichia coli
(STEC) strains. The dramatic effects of these toxins on the microvasculature of different organs, particularly of the kidney, are well known, whereas there is no consensus on the mechanism by which Stx reach the endothelia of target organs and/or indirectly injure these body sites. We hereby describe a quick (4 h), radioactive, Raji cell-based method designed for the detection of Stx in human sera. The assay monitors the translation impairment induced by these powerful inhibitors of protein synthesis, which are identified properly by neutralizing their activity with specific monoclonal antibodies. By this method, we detected for the first time the functional activity of Stx in sera of STEC-infected patients during hemorrhagic colitis. Recent research has pointed to a dynamic process of Stx-induced renal intoxication in which concurrent and interactive steps are involved. Our rapid and specific method could be useful for studying the kinetics of Stx during the natural course of STEC infection and the interplay between Stx activity in serum and Stx presence in different blood fractions (neutrophils, monocytes, platelets, leukocyte-platelet aggregates, microvesicles, lipoproteins).
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