Introduction: Colibacillosis – the most common disease of poultry, is caused mainly by avian pathogenic Escherichia coli (APEC). However, thus far, no pattern to the molecular basis of the pathogenicity of these bacteria has been established beyond dispute. In this study, genomes of APEC were investigated to ascribe importance and explore the distribution of 16 genes recognised as their virulence factors.
Material and Methods: A total of 14 pathogenic for poultry E. coli strains were isolated, and their DNA was sequenced, assembled de novo, and annotated. Amino acid sequences from these bacteria and an additional 16 freely available APEC amino acid sequences were analysed with the DIFFIND tool to define their virulence factors.
Results: The DIFFIND tool enabled quick, reliable, and convenient assessment of the differences between compared amino acid sequences from bacterial genomes. The presence of 16 protein sequences indicated as pathogenicity factors in poultry resulted in the generation of a heatmap which categorises genomes in terms of the existence and similarity of the analysed protein sequences.
Conclusion: The proposed method of detection of virulence factors using the capabilities of the DIFFIND tool may be useful in the analysis of similarities of E. coli and other sequences deriving from bacteria. Phylogenetic analysis resulted in reliable segregation of 30 APEC strains into five main clusters containing various virulence associated genes (VAGs).