Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Differential phenotyping of Brucella species using a newly developed semi-automated metabolic system

Sascha Al Dahouk12*, Holger C Scholz3, Herbert Tomaso4, Peter Bahn1, Cornelia Göllner1, Wolfram Karges2, Bernd Appel1, Andreas Hensel1, Heinrich Neubauer4 and Karsten Nöckler1

Author Affiliations

1 Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, Diedersdorfer Weg 1, D-12277 Berlin, Germany

2 RWTH Aachen University, Department of Internal Medicine III, Pauwelsstraße 30, D-52074 Aachen, Germany

3 Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology, Department of Bacteriology, Neuherbergstraße 11, D-80937 Munich, Germany

4 Friedrich Loeffler Institute, Institute of Bacterial Infections and Zoonoses, Naumburgerstraße 96a, D-07743 Jena, Germany

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BMC Microbiology 2010, 10:269  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-10-269

Published: 23 October 2010



A commercial biotyping system (Taxa Profile™, Merlin Diagnostika) testing the metabolization of various substrates by bacteria was used to determine if a set of phenotypic features will allow the identification of members of the genus Brucella and their differentiation into species and biovars.


A total of 191 different amines, amides, amino acids, other organic acids and heterocyclic and aromatic substrates (Taxa Profile™ A), 191 different mono-, di-, tri- and polysaccharides and sugar derivates (Taxa Profile™ C) and 95 amino peptidase- and protease-reactions, 76 glycosidase-, phosphatase- and other esterase-reactions, and 17 classic reactions (Taxa Profile™ E) were tested with the 23 reference strains representing the currently known species and biovars of Brucella and a collection of 60 field isolates. Based on specific and stable reactions a 96-well "Brucella identification and typing" plate (Micronaut™) was designed and re-tested in 113 Brucella isolates and a couple of closely related bacteria.

Brucella species and biovars revealed characteristic metabolic profiles and each strain showed an individual pattern. Due to their typical metabolic profiles a differentiation of Brucella isolates to the species level could be achieved. The separation of B. canis from B. suis bv 3, however, failed. At the biovar level, B. abortus bv 4, 5, 7 and B. suis bv 1-5 could be discriminated with a specificity of 100%. B. melitensis isolates clustered in a very homogenous group and could not be resolved according to their assigned biovars.


The comprehensive testing of metabolic activity allows cluster analysis within the genus Brucella. The biotyping system developed for the identification of Brucella and differentiation of its species and biovars may replace or at least complement time-consuming tube testing especially in case of atypical strains. An easy to handle identification software facilitates the applicability of the Micronaut™ system for microbiology laboratories.