Stx2d is a recently described Shiga toxin whose cytotoxicity is activated 10- to 1,000-fold by the elastase present in mouse or human intestinal mucus. We examined Shiga toxigenic Escherichia coli (STEC) strains isolated from food and livestock sources for the presence of activatable stx2d. The stx2 operons of STEC were first analyzed by PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis and categorized as stx2, stx2c vha, stx2c vhb, or stx2d EH250. Subsequently, the stx2c vha and stx2c vhb operons were screened for the absence of a PstI site in the stx2A subunit gene, a restriction site polymorphism which is a predictive indicator for the stx2d (activatable) genotype. Twelve STEC isolates carrying putative stx2d operons were identified, and nucleotide sequencing was used to confirm the identification of these operons as stx2d. The complete nucleotide sequences of seven representative stx2d operons were determined. Shiga toxin expression in stx2d isolates was confirmed by immunoblotting. stx2d isolates were induced for the production of bacteriophages carrying stx. Two isolates were able to produce bacteriophages φ1662a and φ1720a carrying the stx2d operons. RFLP analysis of bacteriophage genomic DNA revealed that φ1662a and φ1720a were highly related to each other; however, the DNA sequences of these two stx2d operons were distinct. The STEC strains carrying these operons were isolated from retail ground beef. Surveillance for STEC strains expressing activatable Stx2d Shiga toxin among clinical cases may indicate the significance of this toxin subtype to human health.
We examined 219 Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains from meat, milk, and cheese samples collected in Germany between 2005 and 2006. All strains were investigated for their serotypes and for genetic variants of Shiga toxins 1 and 2 (Stx1 and Stx2). stx1 or variant genes were detected in 88 (40.2%) strains and stx2 and variants in 177 (80.8%) strains. Typing of stx genes was performed by stx-specific PCRs and by analysis of restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLP) of PCR products. Major genotypes of the Stx1 (stx1, stx1c, and stx1d) and the Stx2 (stx2, stx2d, stx2-O118, stx2e, and stx2g) families were detected, and multiple types of stx genes coexisted frequently in STEC strains. Only 1.8% of the STEC strains from food belonged to the classical enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) types O26:H11, O103:H2, and O157:H7, and only 5.0% of the STEC strains from food were positive for the eae gene, which is a virulence trait of classical EHEC. In contrast, 95 (43.4%) of the food-borne STEC strains carried stx2 and/or mucus-activatable stx2d genes, an indicator for potential high virulence of STEC for humans. Most of these strains belonged to serotypes associated with severe illness in humans, such as O22:H8, O91:H21, O113:H21, O174:H2, and O174:H21. stx2 and stx2d STEC strains were found frequently in milk and beef products. Other stx types were associated more frequently with pork (stx2e), lamb, and wildlife meat (stx1c). The combination of serotyping and stx genotyping was found useful for identification and for assignment of food-borne STEC to groups with potential lower and higher levels of virulence for humans.
At least 11 Stx2 variants produced by Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) isolated from patients and animals have been described. The Stx2 subtyping of STEC isolated from healthy cows positive for stx2 (n = 104) or stx2 and stx1 (n = 63) was investigated. Stx2vh-b, Stx2 (renamed Stx2-EDL933), and Stx2vh-a were the subtypes mostly detected among the bovine isolates (39.5, 39, and 25.5%, respectively). Stx2e was not present, and subtypes included in the Stx2d group (Stx2d-OX3a, Stx2d-O111, and Stx2d-Ount) were found infrequently among the isolates examined (8.5%). A combination of two distinct Stx2 subtypes was observed among 23.5% of the strains. For the first time, a combination of three subtypes (Stx2-EDL933/Stx2vh-b/Stx2d and Stx2vh-a/Stx2vh-b/Stx2d) was detected (3.5% of the isolates). In addition, bovine STEC harboring stx1 and one or two stx2 genes appeared highly cytotoxic toward Vero cells. A new Stx2 subtype (Stx2-NV206), present among 14.5% of the isolates, showed high cytotoxicity for Vero cells. Two amino acid residues (Ser-291 and Glu-297) important for the activation of Stx2 by human intestinal mucus were conserved on the Stx2-NV206 A subunit. The gene encoding Ehx enterohemolysin was prominent among STEC harboring stx2-EDL933 alone (78%) or a combination of stx2-EDL933 and stx2vh-b (85%). In addition, Stx2-EDL933 and/or Stx2vh-b subtypes were highly associated with other putative virulence factors such as Stx1 and EspP extracellular serine protease, but not with EAST1 enterotoxin.
Shiga toxin (Stx) types 1 and 2 are encoded within intact or defective temperate bacteriophages in Stx-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), and expression of these toxins is linked to bacteriophage induction. Among Stx2 variants, only stx2e from one human STEC isolate has been reported to be carried within a toxin-converting phage. In this study, we examined the O91:H21 STEC isolate B2F1, which carries two functional alleles for the potent activatable Stx2 variant toxin, Stx2d, for the presence of Stx2d-converting bacteriophages. We first constructed mutants of B2F1 that produced one or the other Stx2d toxin and found that the mutant that produced only Stx2d1 made less toxin than the Stx2d2-producing mutant. Consistent with that result, the Stx2d1-producing mutant was attenuated in a streptomycin-treated mouse model of STEC infection. When the mutants were treated with mitomycin C to promote bacteriophage induction, Vero cell cytotoxicity was elevated only in extracts of the Stx2d1-producing mutant. Additionally, when mice were treated with ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic that induces the O157:H7 Stx2-converting phage, the animals were more susceptible to the Stx2d1-producing mutant. Moreover, an stx2d1-containing lysogen was isolated from plaques on strain DH5α that had been exposed to lysates of the mutant that produced Stx2d1 only, and supernatants from that lysogen transformed with a plasmid encoding RecA were cytotoxic when the lysogen was induced with mitomycin C. Finally, electron-microscopic examination of extracts from the Stx2d1-producing mutant showed hexagonal particles that resemble the prototypic Stx2-converting phage 933W. Together these observations provide strong evidence that expression of Stx2d1 is bacteriophage associated. We conclude that despite the sequence similarity of the stx2d1- and stx2d2-flanking regions in B2F1, Stx2d1 expression is repressed within the context of its toxin-converting phage while Stx2d2 expression is independent of phage induction.
In this study, 75 Shiga toxin (Stx)-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains originating from foods (n = 73) and drinking water (n = 2) were analyzed for their stx genotype, as well as for further chromosome-, phage-, and plasmid-encoded virulence factors. A broad spectrum of stx genes was detected. Fifty-three strains (70.7%) contained stx2 or stx2 variants, including stx2d, mucus-activatable stx2d, stx2e, and stx2g. Seven strains (9.3%) harbored stx1 or stx1c, and 15 strains (20.0%) carried both stx2 and/or stx2 variants and stx1 or stx1c. Beside stx, the most abundant accessory virulence markers in STEC food isolates were iha (57.3%), ehxA (40.0%), espP (28.0%), and subAB (25.3%). Only four strains were eae positive; three of these belonged to the serogroups O26, O103, and O157 and contained a typical enterohemorrhagic E. coli virulence spectrum. The results of this study show that a number of STEC strains that occur in foods appear to be pathogenic for humans, based on their virulence profiles. Analysis of stx subtypes and detection of additional virulence factors in eae-negative strains may help to better assess the risk of such strains for causing human infection.
Shiga toxin (Stx)-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains of serogroup O91 are the most common human pathogenic eae-negative STEC strains. To facilitate diagnosis and subtyping of these pathogens, we genotypically and phenotypically characterized 100 clinical STEC O91 isolates. Motile strains expressed flagellar antigens H8 (1 strain), H10 (2 strains), H14 (52 strains), and H21 (20 strains) or were H nontypeable (Hnt) (10 strains); 15 strains were nonmotile. All nonmotile and Hnt strains possessed the fliC gene encoding the flagellin subunit of the H14 antigen (fliCH14). Most STEC O91 strains possessed enterohemorrhagic E. coli hlyA and expressed an enterohemolytic phenotype. Among seven stx alleles identified, stx2dact, encoding mucus- and elastase-activatable Stx2d, was present solely in STEC O91:H21, whereas most strains of the other serotypes possessed stx1. Moreover, only STEC O91:H21 possessed the cdt-V cluster, encoding cytolethal distending toxin V; the toxin was regularly expressed and was lethal to human microvascular endothelial cells. Infection with STEC O91:H21 was associated with hemolytic-uremic syndrome (P = 0.0015), whereas strains of the other serotypes originated mostly in patients with nonbloody diarrhea. We conclude that STEC O91 clinical isolates belong to at least four lineages that differ by H antigens/fliC types, stx genotypes, and non-stx putative virulence factors, with accumulation of virulence determinants in the O91:H21 lineage. Isolation of STEC O91 from patients' stools on enterohemolysin agar and the rapid initial subtyping of these isolates using fliC genotyping facilitate the identification of these emerging pathogens in clinical and epidemiological studies and enable prediction of the risk of a severe clinical outcome.
Shiga toxin type 2dact (Stx2dact), an Stx2 variant originally identified from Escherichia coli O91:H21 strain B2F1, displays increased cytotoxicity after activation by elastase present in intestinal mucus. Activation is a result of cleavage of two amino acids from the C-terminal tail of the A2 subunit. In this study, we hypothesized that activation leads to increased binding of toxin to its receptor on host cells both in vitro and in vivo. To test this theory, Stx2dact was treated with elastase or buffer alone and then each toxin was assessed for binding to purified globotriaosylceramide (Gb3) in an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, or cells in culture by immunofluorescence, or flow cytometry. Elastase- and buffer-treated Stx2dact were also evaluated for binding to mouse kidney tissue and for relative lethality in mice. We found that activated Stx2dact had a greater capacity to bind purified Gb3, cells in culture, and mouse kidney tissue and was more toxic for mice than was non-activated Stx2dact. Thus, one possible mechanism for the augmented cytotoxicity of Stx2dact after activation is its increased capacity to bind target cells, which, in turn, may cause greater lethality of elastase-treated toxin for mice and enhanced virulence for humans of E. coli strains that express Stx2dact.
Shiga toxin 2d; Stx2dact; globotriaosylceramide/Gb3; Stx2dact binding; Stx2dact A2 subunit
Unlike Shiga toxin 2 (stx2) genes, most nucleotide sequences of Shiga toxin 1 (stx1) genes from Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), Shigella dysenteriae, and several bacteriophages (H19B, 933J, and H30) are highly conserved. Consequently, there has been little incentive to investigate variants of stx1 among STEC isolates derived from human or animal sources. However stx1OX3, originally identified in an OX3:H8 isolate from a healthy sheep in Germany, differs from other stx1 subtypes by 43 nucleotides, resulting in changes to 12 amino acid residues, and has been renamed stx1c. In this study we describe the development of a PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) assay that distinguishes stx1c from other stx1 subtypes. The PCR-RFLP assay was used to study 378 stx1-containing STEC isolates. Of these, 207 were isolated from sheep, 104 from cattle, 45 from humans, 11 from meat, 5 from swine, 5 from unknown sources, and 1 from a cattle water trough. Three hundred fifty-five of the 378 isolates (93.9%) also possessed at least one other associated virulence gene (ehxA, eaeA, and/or stx2); the combination stx1, stx2, and ehxA was the most common (175 of 355 [49.3%]), and 90 of 355 (25.4%) isolates possessed eaeA. One hundred thirty-six of 207 (65.7%) ovine isolates possessed stx1c alone and belonged to 41 serotypes. Seventy-one of 136 (52.2%) comprised the common ovine serotypes O5:H−, O128:H2, and O123:H−. Fifty-two of 207 isolates (25.1%) possessed an stx1 subtype; 27 (51.9%) of these belonged to serotype O91:H−. Nineteen of 207 isolates (9.2%) contained both stx1c and stx1 subtypes, and 14 belonged to serotype O75:H8. In marked contrast, 97 of 104 (93.3%) bovine isolates comprising 44 serotypes possessed an stx1 subtype, 6 isolates possessed stx1c, and the remaining isolate possessed both stx1c and stx1 subtypes. Ten of 11 (91%) isolates cultured from meat in New Zealand possessed stx1c (serotypes O5:H−, O75:H8/H40, O81:H26, O88:H25, O104:H−/H7, O123:H−/H10, and O128:H2); most of these serotypes are commonly recovered from the feces of healthy sheep. Serotypes containing stx1 recovered from cattle rarely were the same as those isolated from sheep. Although an stx1c subtype was never associated with the typical enterohemorrhagic E. coli serogroups O26, O103, O111, O113, and O157, 13 human isolates possessed stx1c. Of these, six isolates with serotype O128:H2 (from patients with diarrhea), four O5:H− isolates (from patients with hemolytic-uremic syndrome), and three isolates with serotypes O123:H− (diarrhea), OX3:H8 (hemolytic-uremic syndrome), and O81:H6 (unknown health status) represent serotypes that are commonly isolated from sheep.
Shiga toxin (Stx)–producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains are food- and waterborne pathogens that are often transmitted via beef products or fresh produce. STEC strains cause both sporadic infections and outbreaks, which may result in hemorrhagic colitis and hemolytic uremic syndrome. STEC strains may elaborate Stx1, Stx2, and/or subtypes of those toxins. Epidemiological evidence indicates that STEC that produce subtypes Stx2a, Stx2c, and/or Stx2d are more often associated with serious illness. The Stx2d subtype becomes more toxic to Vero cells after incubation with intestinal mucus or elastase, a process named “activation.” Stx2d is not generally found in the E. coli serotypes most commonly connected to STEC outbreaks. However, STEC strains that are stx2d positive can be isolated from foods, an occurrence that gives rise to the question of whether those food isolates are potential human pathogens. In this study, we examined 14 STEC strains from fresh produce that were stx2d positive and found that they all produced the mucus-activatable Stx2d and that a subset of the strains tested were virulent in streptomycin-treated mice.
By using sequence analysis of Shiga toxin 1 (Stx 1) genes from human and ovine Stx-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains, we identified an Stx1 variant in STEC of human origin that was identical to the Stx1 variant from ovine STEC, but demonstrated only 97.1 and 96.6% amino acid sequence identity in its A and B subunits, respectively, to the Stx1 encoded by bacteriophage 933J. We designated this variant “Stx1c” and developed stxB1 restriction fragment length polymorphism and stx1c-specific PCR strategies to determine the frequency and distribution of stx1c among 212 STEC strains isolated from humans. stx1c was identified in 36 (17.0%) of 212 STEC strains, 19 of which originated from asymptomatic subjects and 16 of which were from patients with uncomplicated diarrhea. stx1c was most frequently (in 23 STEC strains [63.9%]) associated with stx2d, but 12 (33.3%) of the 36 STEC strains possessed stx1c only. A single STEC strain possessed stx1c together with stx2 and was isolated from a patient with hemolytic-uremic syndrome. All 36 stx1c-positive STEC strains were eae negative and belonged to 10 different serogroups, none of which was O157, O26, O103, O111, or O145. Stx1c was produced by all stx1c-containing STEC strains, but reacted weakly with a commercial immunoassay. We conclude that STEC strains harboring the stx1c variant account for a significant proportion of human STEC isolates. The procedures developed in this study now allow the determination of the frequency of STEC strains harboring stx1c among clinical STEC isolates and their association with human disease in prospective studies.
Stxs are among the most clinically important virulence factors of Shigella and enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli. There are many varieties of Stx, and although Stx1a and Stx2a are the most common and widely distributed types of Stx, new variants of Stx are continually emerging. These new variants of Stx can be challenging to detect, since most Stx detection kits are optimized for the detection of Stx1a and Stx2a. Stx1e, recently discovered in an atypical host (Enterobacter cloacae), is undetectable by many Stx assays. To formulate new assays for the detection of Stx1e, we generated four new MAbs that recognize this Stx subtype. Using these antibodies, we generated an assay capable of detecting Stx1e at low picogram-per-milliliter concentrations. This assay is also compatible with a human serum matrix, suggesting that it may have utility for the clinical detection and diagnosis of Stx1e-associated infections.
Shiga toxin (Stx) is a major virulence factor of several bacterial pathogens that cause potentially fatal illness, including Escherichia coli and Shigella spp. The continual emergence of new subtypes of Stxs presents challenges for the clinical diagnosis of infections caused by Stx-producing organisms. Here, we report the development of four new monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) against Stx1e, a novel subtype of Stx1 that was produced by an Enterobacter cloacae strain and had limited reactivity with existing anti-Stx1 antibodies. Western blot analysis indicates that these MAbs were Stx1 specific, bound to the A subunit, and had distinct preferences for subtypes of Stx1. Of the four MAbs, Stx1e-2 was capable of partially neutralizing cytotoxicities derived from Stx1e in Vero cells. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays assembled with these high-affinity MAbs detected Stx1e at concentrations as low as 4.8 pg/ml in phosphate-buffered saline and 53.6 pg/ml in spiked human serum samples and were also capable of distinguishing Stx1e-producing strains in enriched cultures. These assays may therefore have clinical value in diagnosing Stx1e-producing bacterial infection. Additionally, characteristics of Stx1e, such as the origin of stx1e genes, conditions for toxin expression, receptor binding, and cytotoxicity, were investigated with the new antibodies developed in this study. This information should be useful for further understanding the clinical significance and prevalence of Stx1e-harboring E. cloacae and other organisms.
IMPORTANCE Stxs are among the most clinically important virulence factors of Shigella and enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli. There are many varieties of Stx, and although Stx1a and Stx2a are the most common and widely distributed types of Stx, new variants of Stx are continually emerging. These new variants of Stx can be challenging to detect, since most Stx detection kits are optimized for the detection of Stx1a and Stx2a. Stx1e, recently discovered in an atypical host (Enterobacter cloacae), is undetectable by many Stx assays. To formulate new assays for the detection of Stx1e, we generated four new MAbs that recognize this Stx subtype. Using these antibodies, we generated an assay capable of detecting Stx1e at low picogram-per-milliliter concentrations. This assay is also compatible with a human serum matrix, suggesting that it may have utility for the clinical detection and diagnosis of Stx1e-associated infections.
Enterobacter; Shiga toxins; Stx1e; immunoassays; monoclonal antibodies
A specific PCR for the detection of a variant of the gene encoding Shiga toxin 1 (stx1) called stx1OX3 (GenBank accession no. Z36901) was developed. The PCR was used to investigate 148 Stx1-producing Escherichia coli strains from human patients (n = 72), cattle (n = 27), sheep (n = 48), and a goat (n = 1) for the presence of the stx1OX3 gene. The stx1OX3 gene was present in 38 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) strains from sheep belonging to serogroups O5, O125, O128, O146, and OX3 but was absent from Stx1-positive ovine STEC O91 strains. The stx1OX3 gene was also detected in 22 STEC strains from humans with nonbloody diarrhea and from asymptomatic excreters. Serotypes O146:H21 and O128:H2 were most frequently associated with stx1OX3-carrying STEC from sheep and humans. In contrast, Stx1-producing STEC strains from cattle and goats and 50 STEC strains from humans were all negative for the stx1OX3 gene. The stx1OX3-negative strains belonged to 13 serotypes which were different from those of the stx1OX3-positive STEC strains. Moreover, the stx1OX3 gene was not associated with STEC belonging to enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) serogroups O26, O103, O111, O118, O145, and O157. A bacteriophage carrying the stx1OX3 gene (phage 6220) was isolated from a human STEC O146:H21 strain. The phage was able to lysogenize laboratory E. coli K-12 strain C600. Phage 6220 shared a similar morphology and a high degree of DNA homology with Stx2-encoding phage 933W, which originates from EHEC O157. In contrast, few similarities were found between phage 6220 and Stx1-encoding bacteriophage H-19B from EHEC O26.
Pigs are important reservoirs of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC). The entrance of these strains into the food chain implies a risk to consumers because of the severity of hemolytic uremic syndrome. This study reports the prevalence and characterization of STEC throughout the pork production chain. From 764 samples, 31 (4.05%) were stx positive by PCR screening. At farms, 2.86% of samples were stx positive; at slaughter, 4.08% of carcasses were stx positive and at boning rooms, 6% of samples were stx positive. These percentages decreased in pork meat ready for sale at sales markets (4.59%). From positive samples, 50 isolates could be characterized. At farms 37.5% of the isolates carried stx1/stx2 genes, 37.5% possessed stx2e and 25%, carried only stx2. At slaughter we detected 50% of isolates positive for stx2, 33% for stx2e, and 16% for stx1/stx2. At boning rooms 59% of the isolates carried stx1/stx2, 14% stx2e, and 5% stx1/stx2/stx2e. At retail markets 66% of isolates were positive for stx2, 17% stx2e, and 17% stx1/stx2. For the other virulence factors, ehxA and saa were not detected and eae gene was detected in 12% of the isolates. Concerning putative adhesins, agn43 was detected in 72%, ehaA in 26%, aida in 8%, and iha in 6% of isolates. The strains were typed into 14 E. coli O groups (O1, O2, O8, O15, O20, O35, O69, O78, O91, O121, O138, O142, O157, O180) and 10 H groups (H9, H10, H16, H21, H26, H29, H30, H32, H45, H46). This study reports the prevalence and characterization of STEC strains through the chain pork suggesting the vertical transmission. STEC contamination originates in the farms and is transferred from pigs to carcasses in the slaughter process and increase in meat pork at boning rooms and sales markets. These results highlight the need to implement an integrated STEC control system based on good management practices on the farm and critical control point systems in the food chain.
STEC; foodborne pathogens; pork production chain; prevalence; characterization
Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) have emerged as pathogens that can cause food-borne infections and severe and potentially fatal illnesses in humans, such as haemorrhagic colitis (HC) and haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS). In Spain, like in many other countries, STEC strains have been frequently isolated from ruminants, and represent a significant cause of sporadic cases of human infection. In view of the lack of data on STEC isolated from food in Spain, the objectives of this study were to determine the level of microbiological contamination and the prevalence of STEC O157:H7 and non-O157 in a large sampling of minced beef collected from 30 local stores in Lugo city between 1995 and 2003. Also to establish if those STEC isolated from food possessed the same virulence profiles as STEC strains causing human infections.
STEC were detected in 95 (12%) of the 785 minced beef samples tested. STEC O157:H7 was isolated from eight (1.0%) samples and non-O157 STEC from 90 (11%) samples. Ninety-six STEC isolates were further characterized by PCR and serotyping. PCR showed that 28 (29%) isolates carried stx1 genes, 49 (51%) possessed stx2 genes, and 19 (20%) both stx1 and stx2. Enterohemolysin (ehxA) and intimin (eae) virulence genes were detected in 43 (45%) and in 25 (26%) of the isolates, respectively. Typing of the eae variants detected four types: γ1 (nine isolates), β1 (eight isolates), ε1 (three isolates), and θ (two isolates). The majority (68%) of STEC isolates belonged to serotypes previously detected in human STEC and 38% to serotypes associated with STEC isolated from patients with HUS. Ten new serotypes not previously described in raw beef products were also detected. The highly virulent seropathotypes O26:H11 stx1 eae-β1, O157:H7 stx1stx2 eae-γ1 and O157:H7 stx2eae-γ1, which are the most frequently observed among STEC causing human infections in Spain, were detected in 10 of the 96 STEC isolates. Furthermore, phage typing of STEC O157:H7 isolates showed that the majority (seven of eight isolates) belonged to the main phage types previously detected in STEC O157:H7 strains associated with severe human illnesses.
The results of this study do not differ greatly from those reported in other countries with regard to prevalence of O157 and non-O157 STEC in minced beef. As we suspected, serotypes different from O157:H7 also play an important role in food contamination in Spain, including the highly virulent seropathotype O26:H11 stx1 eae-β1. Thus, our data confirm minced beef in the city of Lugo as vehicles of highly pathogenic STEC. This requires that control measures to be introduced and implemented to increase the safety of minced beef.
Ruminants are regarded as the natural reservoir for Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), especially of serogroup O157.
Materials and methods
During 2011 and 2012, 320 samples (160 faecal samples from the rectum and 160 hide samples from the brisket area) were collected from 160 cattle at slaughter in Northern Italy during warm months (May to October). Cattle were reared in different farms and their age at slaughter ranged between nine months and 15 years, most of them being culled cattle (median age: six years; average age: 4.6 years). Samples were tested by immunomagnetic-separation technique for E coli O157 and O26 and by a screening PCR for stx genes followed by cultural detection of STEC. The virulence genes stx1, stx2, eae, and e-hlyA were detected and among stx2-positive isolates the presence of the stx2a and stx2c variants was investigated.
Twenty-one of 160 cattle (13.1 per cent; 95 per cent CI 8.3 to 19.4 per cent) were found to be faecal carriers of STEC. STEC O157 was found in 10 (6.3 per cent) samples, STEC O26 in six (3.8 per cent) and STEC O111 in one (0.6 per cent). Four isolates (2.5 per cent) were O not determined (OND). Six out of 160 (3.8 per cent; 95 per cent CI 1.4 to 8.0 per cent) hide samples were positive for STEC; four hides (2.5 per cent) were contaminated by STEC O157 and two (1.3 per cent) by STEC O26. In three cattle (1.9 per cent) STEC from both faeces and hides were detected. Among STEC O157, 87.5 per cent of them carried the stx2c gene and 12.5 per cent carried both stx1 and stx2c genes. No O157 isolate harboured stx2a variant. STEC O26 and O111 carried the stx1 gene only. One OND strain carried both the stx2a and stx2c genes.
This study shows that STEC O157 from cattle can harbour the stx2c variant, which is associated with haemolytic uraemic syndrome in humans, and that cattle hides may be a source of human pathogenic STEC O157 and O26 in the slaughterhouse environment.
Cattle; Slaughter; Verocytotoxigenic E coli (VTEC)
Background and Objectives
Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains are human pathogens linked to hemorrhagic colitis and hemolytic uremic syndrome. Shiga toxins (Stx1 and Stx2) are the major virulence factors of these strains. The aim of this work was to study the prevalence and distribution of stx
1 and stx
2 gene in E. coli O157:H7 and non-O157:H7 strains isolated from cattle in Shiraz, Iran.
Materials and Methods
Four hundred and twenty samples consisted of recto-anal mucosal swabs were collected from cattle. They were checked for the presence of the stx1 and stx2 gene using multiplex-PCR every 1 week over a 1-year period (2007-2008).
A total of 146 strains carrying the stx1 and stx2 gene were isolated from 51 (12.14%) cattle. Overall, 15 (3.57%) were identified as O157:H7 and 131 (31.19%) revealed to be non-O157:H7. Both stx2 and stx1 genes were detected in 51 (34.93%) STEC isolates. Genotypes stx1 and stx2 were detected in 15 (10.27%) and 78 (53.42%) respectively. Seasonal distribution of stx genes revealed high percentage of positive animals in warm seasons. The gene sequence similarity ranged from 94 to 100%.
Frequency of stx1 and stx2 in animals and its relation to human disease is not well understood in Iran. The high prevalence of STEC in cattle seems to parallel that which is usually observed in warm seasons and it also parallels occurrence of human STEC. The higher prevalence of the stx2 gene than stx1 in strain populations isolated from cattle indicates a risk alert of E. coli O157:H7 being shed by cattle in these populations. Appropriate measures are now needed to prevent the spread of this life-threatening foodborne disease in our country.
STEC; stx1; stx2; cattle; Iran
Shiga toxin (Stx)-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) causes hemorrhagic colitis and the hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). STEC strains may produce Stx1a and/or Stx2a or variants of either toxin. A 2006 spinach-associated outbreak of STEC O157:H7 resulted in higher hospitalization and HUS rates than previous STEC outbreaks. The spinach isolate, strain K3995, contains both stx2a and stx2c. We hypothesized that the enhanced virulence of K3995 reflects the combination of stx2 alleles (carried on lysogenic phages) and/or the amount of Stx2 made by that strain. We compared the virulence of K3995 to those of other O157:H7 isolates and an isogenic Stx2 mutant in rabbits and mice. We also measured the relative levels of Stx2 produced from those strains with or without induction of the stx-carrying phage. Some rabbits infected with K3995 exhibited intestinal pathology and succumbed to infection, while none of those infected with O157:H7 strain 2812 (Stx1a+ Stx2a+) died or showed pathological signs. Rabbits infected with the isogenic Stx2a mutant K3995 stx2a::cat were not colonized as well as those infected with K3995 and exhibited no signs of disease. In the streptomycin-treated mouse model, more animals infected with K3995 died than did those infected with O157:H7 strain 86-24 (Stx2a+). Additionally, K3995 produced higher levels of total Stx2 and toxin phage DNA in cultures after phage induction than did 86-24. Our results demonstrate the greater virulence of K3995 compared to other O157:H7 strains in rabbits and mice. We conclude that this enhanced virulence is linked to higher levels of Stx2 expression as a consequence of increased phage induction.
Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) are characterized by the production of Shiga toxins (Stx) encoded by temperate bacteriophages. Stx production is linked to the induction of the phage lytic cycle. Several stx variants have been described and differentially associated with the risk of developing severe illness. The variant named stx2g was first identified in a STEC strain isolated from the faeces of healthy cattle. Analysis of stx2g-positive strains isolated from humans, animals, and environmental sources have shown that they have a close relationship. In this study, stx2g-positive STEC isolated from cattle were analyzed for phage and Stx production, with the aim to relate the results to differences observed in cytotoxicity. The presence of inducible phages was assessed by analyzing the bacterial growth/lysis curves and also by plaque assay. Bacterial growth curves in the absence of induction were similar for all isolates, however, notably differed among induced cultures. The two strains that clearly evidenced bacteriolysis under this condition also showed higher phage titers in plaque assays. However, only the phage plaques produced by one of these strains (FB 62) hybridized with a stx2-probe. Furthermore, the production of Stx was evaluated by enzyme immunoassay (EIA) and Western immunoblotting in overnight supernatants. By EIA, we detected Stx only in supernatants of FB 62, with a higher signal for induced than uninduced cultures. By immunoblotting, Stx2 could be detected after induction in all stx2g-positive isolates, but with lower amounts of Stx2B subunit in those supernatants where phages could not be detected. Taking into account all the results, several differences could be found among stx2g-positive strains. The strain with the highest cytotoxic titer showed higher levels of stx2-phages and toxin production by EIA, and the opposite was observed for strains that previously showed low cytotoxic titers, confirming that in stx2g-positive strains Stx production is phage-regulated.
cytotoxicity; Stx2g; phage induction; toxin production
More than 400 serotypes of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) have been implicated in outbreaks and sporadic human diseases. In recent years STEC strains belonging to serogroup O178 have been commonly isolated from cattle and food of bovine origin in South America and Europe. In order to explore the significance of these STEC strains as potential human pathogens, 74 German and Argentinean E. coli O178 strains from animals, food and humans were characterized phenotypically and investigated for their serotypes, stx-genotypes and 43 virulence-associated markers by a real-time PCR-microarray. The majority (n = 66) of the O178 strains belonged to serotype O178:H19. The remaining strains divided into O178:H7 (n = 6), O178:H10 (n = 1), and O178:H16 (n = 1). STEC O178:H19 strains were mainly isolated from cattle and food of bovine origin, but one strain was from a patient with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Genotyping of the STEC O178:H19 strains by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis revealed two major clusters of genetically highly related strains which differ in their stx-genotypes and non-Stx putative virulence traits, including adhesins, toxins, and serine-proteases. Cluster A-strains including the HUS-strain (n = 35) carried genes associated with severe disease in humans (stx2a, stx2d, ehxA, saa, subAB1, lpfAO113, terE combined with stx1a, espP, iha). Cluster B-strains (n = 26) showed a limited repertoire of virulence genes (stx2c, pagC, lpfAO113, espP, iha). Among O178:H7 strains isolated from deer meat and patients with uncomplicated disease a new STEC variant was detected that is associated with the genotype stx1c/stx2b/ehxA/subAB2/espI/[terE]/espP/iha. None of the STEC O178 strains was positive for locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE)- and nle-genes. Results indicate that STEC O178:H19 strains belong to the growing group of LEE-negative STEC that should be considered with respect to their potential to cause diseases in humans.
E. coli O178; STEC; Shiga toxins; virulence; genotyping; PFGE; real-time PCR micro array
Similar to ruminants, swine have been shown to be a reservoir for Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), and pork products have been linked with outbreaks associated with STEC O157 and O111:H-. STEC strains, isolated in a previous study from fecal samples of late-finisher pigs, belonged to a total of 56 serotypes, including O15:H27, O91:H14, and other serogroups previously associated with human illness. The isolates were tested by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and a high-throughput real-time PCR system to determine the Shiga toxin (Stx) subtype and virulence-associated and putative virulence-associated genes they carried. Select STEC strains were further analyzed using a Minimal Signature E. coli Array Strip. As expected, stx2e (81%) was the most common Stx variant, followed by stx1a (14%), stx2d (3%), and stx1c (1%). The STEC serogroups that carried stx2d were O15:H27, O159:H16 and O159:H-. Similar to stx2a and stx2c, the stx2d variant is associated with development of hemorrhagic colitis and hemolytic uremic syndrome, and reports on the presence of this variant in STEC strains isolated from swine are lacking. Moreover, the genes encoding heat stable toxin (estIa) and enteroaggregative E. coli heat stable enterotoxin-1 (astA) were commonly found in 50 and 44% of isolates, respectively. The hemolysin genes, hlyA and ehxA, were both detected in 7% of the swine STEC strains. Although the eae gene was not found, other genes involved in host cell adhesion, including lpfAO113 and paa were detected in more than 50% of swine STEC strains, and a number of strains also carried iha, lpfAO26, lpfAO157, fedA, orfA, and orfB. The present work provides new insights on the distribution of virulence factors among swine STEC strains and shows that swine may carry Stx1a-, Stx2e-, or Stx2d-producing E. coli with virulence gene profiles associated with human infections.
Escherichia coli; STEC; swine; Shiga toxins variants; virulence genes
A study was conducted to determine the prevalence of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) in swine feces in the United States as part of the National Animal Health Monitoring System's Swine 2000 study. Fecal samples collected from swine operations from 13 of the top 17 swine-producing states were tested for the presence of STEC. After enrichment of swine fecal samples in tryptic soy broth, the samples were tested for the presence of stx1 and stx2 by use of the TaqMan E. coli STX1 and STX2 PCR assays. Enrichments of samples positive for stx1 and/or stx2 were plated, and colony hybridization was performed using digoxigenin-labeled probes complementary to the stx1 and stx2 genes. Positive colonies were picked and confirmed by PCR for the presence of the stx1, stx2, or stx2e genes, and the isolates were serotyped. Out of 687 fecal samples tested using the TaqMan assays, 70% (484 of 687) were positive for Shiga toxin genes, and 54% (370 of 687), 64% (436 of 687), and 38% (261 of 687) were positive for stx1, stx2, and both toxin genes, respectively. Out of 219 isolates that were characterized, 29 (13%) produced stx1, 14 (6%) produced stx2, and 176 (80%) produced stx2e. Twenty-three fecal samples contained at least two STEC strains that had different serotypes but that had the same toxin genes or included a strain that possessed stx1 in addition to a strain that possessed stx2 or stx2e. The STEC isolates belonged to various serogroups, including O2, O5, O7, O8, O9, OX10, O11, O15, OX18, O20, O57, O65, O68, O69, O78, O91, O96, O100, O101, O120, O121, O152, O159, O160, O163, and O untypeable. It is noteworthy that no isolates of serogroup O157 were recovered. Results of this study indicate that swine in the United States harbor STEC that can potentially cause human illness.
Background and Objectives
Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) have emerged as human pathogens and contamination of foods of animal origin has been a major public health concern. The aim of the present study was to determine the dissemination of STEC in healthy and diarrheic calves in Urmia region which is located in West Azerbaijan province, Iran.
Materials and Methods
In the current study, a total of 124 Escherichia coli isolates from clinically healthy (n = 73) and diarrheic calves (51) belonging to 6 different farms located in West Azerbaijan province, Iran, were screened by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay for the presence of virulence genes characteristic for STEC, that is, Shiga-toxin producing gene(s) (stx1, stx2), intimin (eaeA) and enterohemolysin (hlyA).
STEC isolates were recovered from 21.92% (16/73) in healthy calves, and 19.6% (10/51) in diarrheic calves. Overall, PCR results showed that 6 (23.1%) isolates carried stx1 gene, 7 (26.92%) possessed stx2 gene while 13 isolates (50%) gave positive amplicon both for stx1 and stx2 genes. All stx positive isolates were assayed further to detect eaeA and hlyA sequences. Seven out of the 26 (26.92%) Shiga toxin gene positive isolates were positive for the eaeA gene, and 15 (57.69%) were positive for the hlyA gene. Both virulence genes (eaeA and hlyA) in the same isolate were observed in 5 (19.23%) of the stx
+ isolates. In total, diverse virulence gene profiles were detected, from which isolates with the genetic profile stx1 stx2 hlyA was the most prevalent. In addition, eaeA gene was more evident in isolates from diarrheic calves than in healthy calves.
There was no significant difference in detecting STEC isolates between healthy and diarrheic calves. It seems that calves to be the reservoir of STEC within the herds and calf management may represent specific control points for reducing STEC spread within dairy units.
Shiga toxin; E. coli; calves; Iran
Shiga toxin (Stx)-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains are a diverse group of food-borne pathogens with various levels of virulence for humans. In this study, we describe the use of a combination of multiple real-time PCR assays for the screening of 400 raw-milk cheeses for the five main pathogenic STEC serotypes (O26:H11, O103:H2, O111:H8, O145:H28, and O157:H7). The prevalences of samples positive for stx, intimin-encoding gene (eae), and at least one of the five O group genetic markers were 29.8%, 37.3%, and 55.3%, respectively. The H2, H7, H8, H11, and H28 fliC alleles were highly prevalent and could not be used as reliable targets for screening. Combinations of stx, eae variants, and O genetic markers, which are typical of the five targeted STEC serotypes, were detected by real-time PCR in 6.5% of the cheeses (26 samples) and included stx-wzxO26-eae-β1 (4.8%; 19 samples), stx-wzxO103-eae-ɛ (1.3%; five samples), stx-ihp1O145-eae-γ1 (0.8%; three samples), and stx-rfbEO157-eae-γ1 (0.3%; one sample). Twenty-eight immunomagnetic separation (IMS) assays performed on samples positive for these combinations allowed the recovery of seven eaeβ1-positive STEC O26:H11 isolates, whereas no STEC O103:H2, O145:H28, or O157:H7 strains could be isolated. Three stx-negative and eaeβ1-positive E. coli O26:[H11] strains were also isolated from cheeses by IMS. Colony hybridization allowed us to recover STEC from stx-positive samples for 15 out of 45 assays performed, highlighting the difficulties encountered in STEC isolation from dairy products. The STEC O26:H11 isolates shared the same virulence genetic profile as enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) O26:H11, i.e., they carried the virulence-associated genes EHEC-hlyA, katP, and espP, as well as genomic O islands 71 and 122. Except for one strain, they all contained the stx1 variant only, which was reported to be less frequently associated with human cases than stx2. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) analysis showed that they displayed high genetic diversity; none of them had patterns identical to those of human O26:H11 strains investigated here.
Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) is a food-borne pathogen that may be responsible for severe human infections. Only a limited number of serotypes, including O26:H11, are involved in the majority of serious cases and outbreaks. The main virulence factors, Shiga toxins (Stx), are encoded by bacteriophages. Seventy-four STEC O26:H11 strains of various origins (including human, dairy, and cattle) were characterized for their stx subtypes and Stx phage chromosomal insertion sites. The majority of food and cattle strains possessed the stx1a subtype, while human strains carried mainly stx1a or stx2a. The wrbA and yehV genes were the main Stx phage insertion sites in STEC O26:H11, followed distantly by yecE and sbcB. Interestingly, the occurrence of Stx phages inserted in the yecE gene was low in dairy strains. In most of the 29 stx-negative E. coli O26:H11 strains also studied here, these bacterial insertion sites were vacant. Multilocus sequence typing of 20 stx-positive or stx-negative E. coli O26:H11 strains showed that they were distributed into two phylogenetic groups defined by sequence type 21 (ST21) and ST29. Finally, an EspK-carrying phage was found inserted in the ssrA gene in the majority of the STEC O26:H11 strains but in only a minority of the stx-negative E. coli O26:H11 strains. The differences in the stx subtypes and Stx phage insertion sites observed in STEC O26:H11 according to their origin might reflect that strains circulating in cattle and foods are clonally distinct from those isolated from human patients.
In the United States, Shiga toxin (Stx)-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) is the most frequent infectious cause of hemorrhagic colitis. Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is a serious sequela that may develop after STEC infection that can lead to renal failure and death in up to 10% of cases. STEC can produce one or more types of Stx, Stx1 and/or Stx2, and Stx1 and Stx2 are responsible for HUS-mediated kidney damage. We previously generated two monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) that neutralize the toxicity of Stx1 or Stx2. In this study, we evaluated the protective efficacy of human/mouse chimeric versions of those monoclonal antibodies, named cαStx1 and cαStx2. Mice given an otherwise lethal dose of Stx1 were protected from death when injected with cαStx1 either 1 h before or 1 h after toxin injection. Additionally, streptomycin-treated mice fed the mouse-lethal STEC strain B2F1 that produces the Stx2 variant Stx2d were protected when given a dose of 0.1 mg of cαStx2/kg of body weight administered up to 72 h post-oral bacterial challenge. Since many STEC strains produce both Stx1 and Stx2 and since either toxin may lead to the HUS, we also assessed the protective efficacy of the combined MAbs. We found that both antibodies were required to protect mice from the presence of both Stx1 and Stx2. Pharmacokinetic studies indicated that cαStx1 and cαStx2 had serum half-lives (t1/2) of about 50 and 145 h, respectively. We propose that cαStx1 and cαStx2, both of which have been tested for safety in humans, could be used therapeutically for prevention or treatment early in the development of HUS.