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.
Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), encompassing E. coli O157 and non-O157 STEC, is a significant cause of food-borne illnesses and deaths in the United States and worldwide. Shiga toxins (encoded by stx) and intimin (encoded by eae) are important virulence factors for STEC strains linked to severe human illnesses such as hemorrhagic colitis and hemolytic-uremic syndrome. In this study, the stx1, stx2, and eae genes were chosen as targets to design loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) assays for the rapid, specific, sensitive, and quantitative detection of STEC strains. The assay performances in pure culture and spiked ground beef and human stools were evaluated and compared with those of quantitative PCR (qPCR). No false-positive or false-negative results were observed among 90 bacterial strains used to evaluate assay specificity. The limits of detection for seven STEC strains of various serogroups (O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, O145, and O157) were approximately 1 to 20 CFU/reaction in pure culture and 103 to 104 CFU/g in spiked ground beef, which were comparable to the results of qPCR. Standard curves generated suggested good linear relationships between STEC cell numbers and LAMP turbidity signals. When applied in ground beef samples spiked with two low levels (1 to 2 and 10 to 20 CFU/25 g) of STEC cultures, the LAMP assays achieved accurate detection after 6 to 8 h enrichment. The assays also consistently detected STEC in human stool specimens spiked with 103 or 104 CFU/0.5 g stool after 4 h enrichment, while qPCR required 4 to 6 h. In conclusion, the LAMP assays developed in this study may facilitate rapid and reliable identification of STEC contaminations in high-risk food commodities and also facilitate prompt diagnosis of STEC infections in clinical laboratories.
Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) and Salmonella are food-borne pathogens commonly associated with beef, and reliable methods are needed to determine their prevalence in beef and to ensure food safety. Retail ground beef was tested for the presence of E. coli O157:H7, STEC serogroups O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, and O145, and Salmonella using the DuPont™ BAX® system method. Ground beef (325 g) samples were enriched in 1.5 L of TSB with 2 mg/L novobiocin at 42°C for 18 h, and then evaluated using the BAX® System real-time PCR assays for E. coli O157:H7 and STEC suite, and the BAX® System standard PCR assays for E. coli O157:H7 MP and Salmonella. Samples positive for STEC target genes by the BAX® System assays were subjected to immunomagnetic separation (IMS) and plating onto modified Rainbow Agar O157. Enrichments that were PCR positive for Salmonella were inoculated into RV broth, incubated for 18 h at 42°C, and then plated onto XLT-4 agar. Presumptive positive STEC and Salmonella colonies were confirmed using the BAX® System assays. Results of the BAX® System STEC assays showed 20/308 (6.5%) of samples positive for both the Shiga toxin (stx) and intimin (eae) genes; 4 (1.3%) for stx, eae, and O26; 1 (0.3%) for stx, eae, and O45; 3 (1%) for stx, eae, and O103; and 1 (0.3%) for stx, eae, and O145. There were also 3 samples positive for stx, eae, and more than one STEC serogroup. Three (1.0%) of the samples were positive using the BAX® System real-time E. coli O157:H7 assay, and 28 (9.1%) were positive using the BAX® System Salmonella assay. STEC O103 and E. coli O157:H7 were isolated from 2/6 and 2/3 PCR positive samples, respectively. Salmonella isolates were recovered and confirmed from 27 of the 28 Salmonella PCR positive samples, and a portion of the isolates were serotyped and antibiotic resistance profiles determined. Results demonstrate that the BAX® System assays are effective for detecting STEC and Salmonella in beef.
Shiga toxin-producing E. coli; Salmonella; ground beef; detection; PCR; O157:H7; non-O157 STEC
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.
The performance of CHROMagar STEC and CHROMagar STEC O104 (CHROMagar Microbiology, Paris, France) media for the detection of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) was assessed with 329 stool specimens collected over 14 months from patients with suspected STEC infections (June 2011 to August 2012). The CHROMagar STEC medium, after an enrichment broth step, allowed the recovery of the STEC strain from 32 of the 39 (82.1%) Shiga toxin-positive stool specimens, whereas the standard procedure involving Drigalski agar allowed the recovery of only three additional STEC strains. The isolates that grew on CHROMagar STEC medium belonged to 15 serotypes, including the prevalent non-sorbitol-fermenting (NSF) O157:H7, O26:H11, and O104:H4 serotypes. The sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values for the CHROMagar STEC medium were between 89.1% and 91.4%, 83.7% and 86.7%, 40% and 51.3%, and 98% and 98.8%, respectively, depending on whether or not stx-negative eae-positive E. coli was considered atypical enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC) or STEC that had lost Shiga toxin genes during infection. In conclusion, the good performance of CHROMagar STEC agar medium, in particular, the high negative predictive value, and its capacity to identify NSF O157:H7 as well as common non-O157 STEC may be useful for clinical bacteriology, public health, and reference laboratories; it could be used in addition to a method targeting Shiga toxins (detection of stx genes by PCR, immunodetection of Shiga toxins in stool specimens, or Vero cell cytotoxicity assay) as an alternative to O157 culture medium. This combined approach should allow rapid visualization of both putative O157 and non-O157 STEC colonies for subsequent characterization, essential for real-time surveillance of STEC infections and investigations of outbreaks.
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.
A 12-month longitudinal study was undertaken on two dairy herds to ascertain the Shiga-toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157 and O26 shedding status of the animals and its impact (if any) on raw milk. Cattle are a recognized reservoir for these organisms with associated public health and environmental implications. Animals shedding E. coli O157 at >10,000 CFU/g of feces have been deemed super-shedders. There is a gap in the knowledge regarding super-shedding of other STEC serogroups. A cohort of 40 lactating cows from herds previously identified as positive for STEC in a national surveillance project were sampled every second month between August, 2013 and July, 2014. Metadata on any potential super-shedders was documented including, e.g., age of the animal, number of lactations and days in lactation, nutritional condition, somatic cell count and content of protein in milk to assess if any were associated with risk factors for super-shedding. Recto-anal mucosal swabs (RAMS), raw milk, milk filters, and water samples were procured for each herd. The swabs were examined for E. coli O157 and O26 using a quantitative real time PCR method. Counts (CFU swab-1) were obtained from a standard calibration curve that related real-time PCR cycle threshold (Ct) values against the initial concentration of O157 or O26 in the samples. Results from Farm A: 305 animals were analyzed; 15 E. coli O157 (5%) were recovered, 13 were denoted STEC encoding either stx1 and/or stx2 virulence genes and 5 (2%) STEC O26 were recovered. One super-shedder was identified shedding STEC O26 (stx1&2). Farm B: 224 animals were analyzed; eight E. coli O157 (3.5%) were recovered (seven were STEC) and 9 (4%) STEC O26 were recovered. Three super-shedders were identified, one was shedding STEC O157 (stx2) and two STEC O26 (stx2). Three encoded the adhering and effacement gene (eae) and one isolate additionally encoded the haemolysin gene (hlyA). All four super-shedders were only super-shedding once during the 1-year sampling period. The results of this study show, low numbers of super-shedders in the herds examined, with high numbers of low and medium shedding. Although four super-shedding animals were identified, no STEC O157 or O26 were recovered from any of the raw milk, milk filter, or water samples. The authors conclude that this study highlights the need for further surveillance to assess the potential for environmental contamination and food chain security.
STEC; super-shedding; raw milk; cattle; recto-anal; swabs
Timely accurate diagnosis of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) infections is important. We evaluated a laboratory-developed real-time PCR (LD-PCR) assay targeting stx1, stx2, and rfbEO157 with 2,386 qualifying stool samples submitted to the microbiology laboratory of a tertiary care pediatric center between July 2011 and December 2013. Broth cultures of PCR-positive samples were tested for Shiga toxins by enzyme immunoassay (EIA) (ImmunoCard STAT! enterohemorrhagic E. coli [EHEC]; Meridian Bioscience) and cultured in attempts to recover both O157 and non-O157 STEC. E. coli O157 and non-O157 STEC were detected in 35 and 18 cases, respectively. Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) occurred in 12 patients (10 infected with STEC O157, one infected with STEC O125ac, and one with PCR evidence of STEC but no resulting isolate). Among the 59 PCR-positive STEC specimens from 53 patients, only 29 (54.7%) of the associated specimens were toxin positive by EIA. LD-PCR differentiated STEC O157 from non-O157 using rfbEO157, and LD-PCR results prompted successful recovery of E. coli O157 (n = 25) and non-O157 STEC (n = 8) isolates, although the primary cultures and toxin assays were frequently negative. A rapid “mega”-multiplex PCR (FilmArray gastrointestinal panel; BioFire Diagnostics) was used retrospectively, and results correlated with LD-PCR findings in 25 (89%) of the 28 sorbitol-MacConkey agar culture-negative STEC cases. These findings demonstrate that PCR is more sensitive than EIA and/or culture and distinguishes between O157 and non-O157 STEC in clinical samples and that E. coli O157:H7 remains the predominant cause of HUS in our institution. PCR is highly recommended for rapid diagnosis of pediatric STEC infections.
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)
Contamination of surface water by fecal microorganisms originating from human and nonhuman sources is a public health concern. In the present study, Escherichia coli isolates (n = 412) from the feces of various avian host sources were screened for various virulence genes: stx1 and stx2 (Shiga toxin-producing E. coli [STEC]), eae (enteropathogenic E. coli [EPEC]), est-h, est-p, and elt (encoding heat-stable toxin [ST] variants STh and STp and heat-labile toxin [LT], respectively) (enterotoxigenic E. coli [ETEC]), and ipaH (enteroinvasive E. coli [EIEC]). None of the isolates were found to be positive for stx1, while 23% (n = 93) were positive for only stx2, representing STEC, and 15% (n = 63) were positive for only eae, representing EPEC. In addition, five strains obtained from pheasant were positive for both stx2 and eae and were confirmed as non-O157 by using an E. coli O157 rfb (rfbO157) TaqMan assay. Isolates positive for the virulence genes associated with ETEC and EIEC were not detected in any of the hosts. The repetitive element palindromic PCR (rep-PCR) fingerprint analysis identified 143 unique fingerprints, with an overall Shannon diversity index of 2.36. Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) showed that the majority of the STEC and EPEC isolates were genotypically distinct from nonpathogenic E. coli and clustered independently. MANOVA analysis also revealed spatial variation among the E. coli isolates, since the majority of the isolates clustered according to the sampling locations. Although the presence of virulence genes alone cannot be used to determine the pathogenicity of strains, results from this study show that potentially pathogenic STEC and EPEC strains can be found in some of the avian hosts studied and may contaminate surface water and potentially impact human health.
Escherichia coli O157:H7 and certain non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) serogroups have emerged as important public health threats. The development of methods for rapid and reliable detection of this heterogeneous group of pathogens has been challenging. GeneDisc real-time PCR assays were evaluated for detection of the stx1, stx2, eae, and ehxA genes and a gene that identifies the O157 serogroup followed by a second GeneDisc assay targeting serogroup-specific genes of STEC O26, O45, O91, O103, O111, O113, O121, O145, and O157. The ability to detect the STEC serogroups in ground beef samples artificially inoculated at a level of ca. 2–20 CFU/25 g and subjected to enrichment in mTSB or buffered peptone water (BPW) was similar. Following enrichment, all inoculated ground beef samples showed amplification of the correct set of target genes carried by each strain. Samples inoculated with STEC serogroups O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, O145, and O157 were subjected to immunomagnetic separation (IMS), and isolation was achieved by plating onto Rainbow agar O157. Colonies were confirmed by PCR assays targeting stx1, stx2, eae, and serogroup-specific genes. Thus, this work demonstrated that GeneDisc assays are rapid, sensitive, and reliable and can be used for screening ground beef and potentially other foods for STEC serogroups that are important food-borne pathogens worldwide.
GeneDisc; real-time PCR; STEC; virulence genes; O-group; detection; isolation; E. coli O157:H7
Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli bacteria (STEC) are emerging pathogens capable of producing sporadic and epidemic diarrhea, hemorrhagic colitis, and potentially life-threatening hemolytic-uremic syndrome. Although the presence of E. coli O157 can be readily detected in stool by sorbitol-MacConkey agar culture (SMAC), STEC non-O157 serotypes cannot. In contrast to culture, testing for the presence of Shiga toxins 1 and 2 in stool detects both O157 and non-O157 STEC serotypes capable of causing disease. Over two consecutive summers, we evaluated the performance of the ProSpecT Shiga toxin E. coli Microplate assay (Alexon-Trend, Ramsey, Minn.), an enzyme immunoassay for the detection of Shiga toxins 1 and 2, on all stools submitted for culture of enteric pathogens, and the potential clinical impact of Shiga toxin detection. Twenty-nine stool specimens were STEC positive by ProSpecT assay. Twenty-seven of 29 STEC-positive isolates were confirmed by SMAC and serotyping or by a second enzyme immunoassay and PCR (positive predictive value, 93%). Thirteen of 27 confirmed Shiga toxin-producing strains were serotype O157. The remaining 14 strains represented 8 other serotypes. The ProSpecT assay was 100% sensitive and specific for detection of E. coli O157 in stool (7 of 7) compared to SMAC. In addition, the ProSpecT assay detected twice as many STEC as SMAC. Fifty-two percent of confirmed STEC-positive stools were nonbloody. Thus, in our population, screening strategies that test only visibly bloody stools for STEC would miss a majority of cases. Eleven (41%) STEC-positive patients were hospitalized, and eight (30%) developed severe disease (two developed hemolytic-uremic syndrome, and six developed hemorrhagic colitis). Prior to detection of STEC infection, seven (26%) and eight patients (30%) underwent unnecessary diagnostic procedures or received potentially deleterious empirical treatment, respectively. We propose that establishing a specific diagnosis of STEC may have prevented these potentially harmful interventions. We conclude that the ProSpecT assay is sensitive and specific for the detection of Shiga toxins 1 and 2 in stool and has potentially significant clinical impact for the individual patient and public health. Shiga toxin assays should be considered for routine use in settings where prevalence of STEC disease warrants testing.
Sentinel surveillance in Minnesota revealed that enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC) and non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli are common enteric pathogens; ETEC was the second leading bacterial pathogen in an urban site; 39% of ETEC were domestically acquired.
Background. Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) and non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) are not detected by conventional culture methods. The prevalence of ETEC infections in the United States is unknown, and recognized cases are primarily associated with foreign travel. Gaps remain in our understanding of STEC epidemiology.
Methods. Two sentinel surveillance sites were enrolled: an urban health maintenance organization laboratory (Laboratory A) and a rural hospital laboratory (Laboratory B). Residual sorbitol MacConkey (SMAC) plates from stool cultures performed at Laboratory A (1996–2006) and Laboratory B (2000–2008) were collected. Colony sweeps from SMAC plates were tested for genes encoding STEC toxins stx1 and stx2 (1996–2008) and ETEC heat-labile and heat-stable toxins eltB, estA 1, 2 and 3 (2000–2008) by polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based assays.
Results. In Laboratory A, a bacterial pathogen was identified in 7.0% of 21 970 specimens. During 1996–2006, Campylobacter was the most common bacterial pathogen (2.7% of cultures), followed by Salmonella (1.2%), Shigella (1.0%), and STEC (0.9%). Among STEC (n = 196), O157 was the most common serogroup (31%). During 2000–2006, ETEC (1.9%) was the second most common bacterial pathogen after Campylobacter (2.6%). In Laboratory B, of 19 293 specimens tested, a bacterial pathogen was identified for 5.5%, including Campylobacter (2.1%), STEC (1.3%), Salmonella (1.0%), and ETEC (0.8%). Among STEC (n = 253), O157 was the leading serogroup (35%). Among ETEC cases, 61% traveled internationally.
Conclusions. Enterotoxigenic E. coli and STEC infections were as common as most other enteric bacterial pathogens, and ETEC may be detected more frequently by culture-independent multiplex PCR diagnostic methods. A high proportion of ETEC cases were domestically acquired.
enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli; pathogenic Escherichia coli; Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli
We have analyzed the prevalence of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) in stool specimens of patients with diarrhea or other gastrointestinal alterations from the Xeral-Calde Hospital of Lugo City (Spain). STEC strains were detected in 126 (2.5%) of 5,054 cases investigated, with a progressive increase in the incidence from 0% in 1992 to 4.4% in 1999. STEC O157:H7 was isolated in 24 cases (0.5%), whereas non-O157 STEC strains were isolated from 87 patients (1.7%). STEC strains were (after Salmonella and Campylobacter strains) the third most frequently recovered enteropathogenic bacteria. A total of 126 human STEC isolates were characterized in this study. PCR showed that 43 (34%) isolates carried stx1 genes, 45 (36%) possessed stx2 genes and 38 (30%) carried both stx1 and stx2. A total of 88 (70%) isolates carried an ehxA enterohemolysin gene, and 70 (56%) isolates possessed an eae intimin gene (27 isolates with type γ1, 20 with type β1, 8 with type ζ, 5 with type γ2, and 3 with type ɛ). STEC isolates belonged to 41 O serogroups and 66 O:H serotypes, including 21 serotypes associated with hemolytic uremic syndrome and 30 new serotypes not previously reported among human STEC strains in other studies. Although the 126 STEC isolates belonged to 81 different seropathotypes (associations between serotypes and virulence genes), only four accounted for 31% of isolates. Seropathotype O157:H7 stx1 stx2 eae-γ1 ehxA was the most common (13 isolates) followed by O157:H7 stx2 eae-γ1 ehxA (11 isolates), O26:H11 stx1 eae-β1 ehxA (11 isolates), and O111:H- stx1 stx2 eae-γ2 ehxA (4 isolates). Our results suggest that STEC strains are a significant cause of human infections in Spain and confirm that in continental Europe, infections caused by STEC non-O157 strains are more common than those caused by O157:H7 isolates. The high prevalence of STEC strains (both O157:H7 and non-O157 strains) in human patients, and their association with serious complications, strongly supports the utilization of protocols for detection of all serotypes of STEC in Spanish clinical microbiology laboratories.
Outbreaks due to non-O157:H7 Shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC) resulting in Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome (HUS) have garnered much attention because of associated mortality transcending across continents and also because diarrhoea due to E.coli itself is rare in developed countries. The actual incidence of non-O157:H7 STEC in sporadic acute diarrhoea is not fully elucidated, both in developing as well as in developed countries. Due to larger extent of faecal-oral transmission in developing countries it is prudent to look for non-O157: H7 STEC in such epidemiological settings because of very high potential to spread across larger geographical regions and cause life threatening illness.
To determine the extent of acute diarrhoea caused by Shiga toxin producing E. coli and measure their genotypic diversity.
Materials and Methods
The study was designed as a cross-sectional study and conducted between 2009-2011 in department of Microbiology at JN Medical College Belgaum (Karnataka) and Regional Medical Research Center, Belgaum (RMRC-ICMR). Stool samples from 300 sporadic cases of acute diarrhoea were processed by microscopy, culture, for the identification of diarrhoeagenic pathogens viz. Vibrio cholera, Shigella spp., Salmonella spp. and protozoan parasites. PCR was performed for the detection of eae and stx genes in E. coli isolates. Their relatedness was determined by Random Amplification of Polymorphic DNA (RAPD).
PCR detected stx along with eae in 23.2% culture isolates of E.coli isolated from diarrhoea samples. Only three isolates were identified as STEC by serology as O59, O60 and O69 serotypes. Eleven clones were detected by RAPD fingerprinting in the 46 STEC isolates.
Non-O157:H7 STEC are prevalent in this region and laboratories shall look beyond O157:H7 serotype of E.coli. These isolates have potential of causing outbreaks transcending borders. Hence they shall be reported and efforts be made to identify their sources and prevent spread.
Diarrhoea; Enterohaemorrhagic E.Coli (EHEC); Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome (HUS); Verotoxigenic E.Coli (VTEC)
We have developed a rapid (1-h) real-time fluorescence-based PCR assay with the Smart Cycler thermal cycler (Cepheid, Sunnyvale, Calif.) for the detection of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), as well as other Shiga toxin-producing bacteria. Based on multiple-sequence alignments, we have designed two pairs of PCR primers that efficiently amplify all variants of the Shiga toxin genes stx1 and stx2, respectively. These primer pairs were combined for use in a multiplex assay. Two molecular beacons bearing different fluorophores were used as internal probes specific for each amplicon. Assays performed with purified genomic DNA from a variety of STEC strains (n = 23) from diverse geographic locations showed analytical sensitivities of about 10 genome copies per PCR. Non-STEC strains (n = 20) were also tested, and no amplification was observed. The PCR results correlated perfectly with the phenotypic characterization of toxin production in both STEC and non-STEC strains, thereby confirming the specificity of the assay. The assay was validated by testing 38 fecal samples obtained from 27 patients. Of these samples, 26 were PCR positive for stx1 and/or stx2. Compared with the culture results, both the sensitivity and the negative predictive value were 100%. The specificity was 92%, and the positive predictive value was 96%. Moreover, this assay detected STEC from a sample in which the STEC concentration was at the limit of detection of the conventional culture methods and from a sample in which STEC was not detected by the conventional culture methods. This real-time PCR assay is simple, rapid, sensitive, and specific and allows detection of all Shiga toxin-producing bacteria directly from fecal samples, irrespective of their serotypes.
Many pathogens produce the β-(1−6)-linked poly-N-acetylglucosamine (PNAG) surface polysaccharide that is being developed as a broadly protective antimicrobial vaccine. However, it is unknown whether systemically injected PNAG vaccines or antibodies would provide protective immunity against pathogens confined to the gastrointestinal tract such as Shiga toxin (Stx)-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), an important group of gastrointestinal (GI) pathogens for which effective immunotherapeutics are lacking. To ascertain whether systemic IgG antibody to PNAG impacts this infectious situation, a vaccine consisting of a synthetic nonamer of nonacetylated PNAG, 9GlcNH2, conjugated to the Shiga toxin 1b subunit (9GlcNH2-Stx1b) was produced. Rabbit antibodies raised to the conjugate vaccine were tested for bacterial killing and toxin neutralization in vitro and protection against infection in infant mice. Cell surface PNAG was detected on all 9 STEC isolates tested, representing 6 STEC serogroups, including E. coli O157:H7. Antibody to the 9GlcNH2-Stx1b conjugate neutralized Stx1 potently and Stx2 modestly. For O157:H7 and O104:H4 STEC strains, antibodies elicited by the 9GlcNH2-Stx1b conjugate possessed opsonic killing and bactericidal activity. Following intraperitoneal injection, antibodies to both PNAG and Stx were needed for infant mouse protection against O157 STEC. These antibodies also mediated protection against the Stx2-producing O104:H4 strain that was the cause of a recent outbreak in Germany, although sufficient doses of antibody to PNAG alone were protective against this strain in infant mice. Our observations suggest that vaccination against both PNAG and Stx, using a construct such as the 9GlcNH2-Stx1b conjugate vaccine, would be protective against a broad range of STEC serogroups.
The presence of poly-N-acetylglucosamine (PNAG) on many pathogens presents an opportunity to target this one structure with a multispecies vaccine. Whether antibodies to PNAG can protect against pathogens confined to the gastrointestinal tract is not known. As Shiga toxin (Stx)-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) bacteria are serious causes of infection whose virulence is dependent on elaboration of Stx, we prepared a vaccine containing a synthetic nonamer of PNAG (9GlcNH2) conjugated to Shiga toxin 1b subunit (9GlcNH2-Stx1b) to evaluate bacterial killing, toxin neutralization, and protective efficacy in infant mice. All nine (100%) clinical strains of STEC from different serogroups expressed PNAG. Vaccine-induced antibody mediated in vitro killing of STEC and neutralization of both Stx1 and Stx2. Passive administration of antibody to the conjugate showed protection requiring immunity to both PNAG and Stx for O157 strains, although for an O104 strain, antibody to PNAG alone was protective. Immunity to PNAG may contribute to protection against STEC infections.
Out of 174 bovine Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains isolated from diarrheic calves in Germany and Belgium, 122 strains (70.1%) were selected because of their reactivity with the eae (E. coli attaching and effacing gene) probe ECW1-ECW2. One hundred seven of these eae-positive strains (87.7%) harbored stx1 genes, 13 strains (10.7%) had stx2 genes, and 2 strains (1.6%) had both stx genes. The strains displayed 17 different O types, the majority (97 strains) [79.5%]) belonging to O5 (5 strains), O26 (21 strains), O111 (13 strains) O118 (36 strains), O145 (9 strains), and O157 (13 strains). In the HEp-2 cell adhesion assay, 99 strains (81.1%) showed a localized adhesion, and 80 strains (65.6%) stimulated actin accumulation, as determined in the fluorescence actin staining test. None of the strains harbored genes coding for bundle-forming pili (bfpA), clearly differentiating them from enteropathogenic. E. cole. espB gene sequences were only detectable in 23 (18.9%) of the eae-positive bovine STEC strains. Three different PCRs were established, differentiating between eae sequences of enteropathogenic E. coli strain E2348/69 (O127:H6) and STEC strain EDL933 (O157: H7). Primers matching in the more heterologous downstream eae sequences gave amplicons in only 8 of the 17 O types (O84:H-, O103:H2, O111:H-, O111:H2, O119:H25, O128:H-, O145:H28, and O157:H-). Only 15 STEC strains, belonging to serotypes O111H:-, O111H:2, O145:H28, and O157:H-, gave amplicons in all three eae-specific PCRs. These data demonstrate that bovine STEC strains are a heterogeneous group of pathogenic bacteria, a lot of which share virulence markers with STEC strains causing infections in humans. However, in contrast to human STEC strains, bovine eae-positive STEC strains are mainly restricted to the stx1 genotype. The observation that espB sequences are not highly conserved might have consequences for the serological recognition of the ESPB protein in patients. Like in human STEC strains, eae-related sequences are closely associated with certain E. coli O groups; however, they are not serotype specific.
The enzyme glutamate decarboxylase (GAD) is prevalent in Escherichia coli but few strains in the various pathogenic E. coli groups have been tested for GAD. Using PCR primers that amplify a 670-bp segment from the gadA and gadB genes encoding GAD, we examined the distribution of the gadAB genes among enteric bacteria. Analysis of 173 pathogenic E. coli strains, including 125 enterohemorrhagic E. coli isolates of the O157:H7 serotype and its phenotypic variants and 48 isolates of enteropathogenic E. coli, enterotoxigenic E. coli, enteroinvasive E. coli, and other Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) serotypes, showed that gadAB genes were present in all these strains. Among the 22 non-E. coli isolates tested, only the 6 Shigella spp. carried gadAB. Analysis of naturally contaminated water and food samples using a gadAB-specific DNA probe that was labeled with digoxigenin showed that a gadAB-based assay is as reliable as standard methods that enumerate E. coli organisms on the basis of lactose fermentation. The presence of few E. coli cells initially seeded into produce rinsates could be detected by PCR to gadA/B genes after overnight enrichment. A multiplex PCR assay using the gadAB primers in combination with primers to Shiga toxin (Stx) genes stx1 and stx2 was effective in detecting STEC from the enrichment medium after seeding produce rinsate samples with as few as 2 CFU. The gadAB primers may be multiplexed with primers to other trait virulence markers to specifically identify other pathogenic E. coli groups.
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
To characterise the genetic and serological diversity of pathogenic Escherichia coli, we tested 111 E coli strains isolated from diarrhoeal patients in Korea between 2003 and 2006.
The isolates were tested through polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and slide agglutination method for the detection of virulence genes and serotypes, respectively. To compare the expression of Shiga toxin (stx)-1 and stx2 genes, real-time quantitative reverse-transcriptase PCR and rapid exprssion assay, reversed-passive latex agglutination, were performed.
Forty-nine Shiga toxin-producing E coli (STEC) strains and 62 non-STEC strains, including 20 enteropathogenic E coli, 20 enterotoxigenic E coli, 20 enteroaggregative E coli, and 2 enteroinvasive E coli were randomly chosen from the strains isolated from diarrhoeal patients in Korea between 2003 and 2006. PCR analysis indicated that locus of enterocyte effacement pathogenicity island, that is, eaeA, espADB, and tir genes were present in STEC, enteropathogenic E coli, and enteroinvasive E coli. Quorum sensing-related gene luxS was detected in most of pathogenic E coli strains. Major serotypes of the STEC strains were O157 (26%) and O26 (20%), whereas the non-STEC strains possessed various serotypes. Especially, all the strains with serotype O157 carried stx2 and the tested virulence factors. Of the STEC strains, the data of real-time quantitative reverse-transcriptase PCR and reversed-passive latex agglutination tests showed that messenger RNA- and protein expression of stx2 gene were higher than those of stx1 gene.
Our results provide the epidemiological information regarding the trend of STEC and non-STEC infections in the general population and show the fundamental data in association of serotypes with virulence genes in diarrhoeagenic E coli strains from Korea.
diarrhoeal patients; pathogenic Escherichia coli; serotypes; virulence factors
Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) are considered to be a significant threat to public health due to the severity of gastrointestinal symptoms associated with human infection. In England STEC O157 is the most commonly detected STEC serogroup, however, the implementation of PCR at local hospital laboratories has resulted in an increase in the detection of non-O157 STEC. The aim of this study was to evaluate the use of whole genome sequencing (WGS) for routine public health surveillance of non-O157 STEC by comparing this approach to phenotypic serotyping and PCR for subtyping the stx-encoding genes. Of the 102 isolates where phenotypic and genotypic serotyping could be compared, 98 gave fully concordant results. The most common non-O157 STEC serogroups detected were O146 (22) and O26 (18). All but one of the 38 isolates that could not be phenotypically serotyped (designated O unidentifiable or O rough) were serotyped using the WGS data. Of the 73 isolates where a flagella type was available by traditional phenotypic typing, all results matched the H-type derived from the WGS data. Of the 140 sequenced non-O157 isolates, 52 (37.1%) harboured stx1 only, 42 (30.0%) had stx2 only, 46 (32.9%) carried stx1 and stx2. Of these, stx subtyping PCR results were available for 131 isolates and 121 of these had concordant results with the stx subtype derived from the WGS data. Of the 10 discordant results, non-specific primer binding during PCR amplification, due to the similarity of the stx2 subtype gene sequences was the most likely cause. The results of this study showed WGS provided a reliable and robust one-step process for characterization of STEC. Deriving the full serotype from WGS data in real time has enabled us to report a higher level of strain discrimination while stx subtyping provides data on the pathogenic potential of each isolate, enabling us to predict clinical outcome of each case and to monitor the emergence of hyper-virulent strains.
whole genome sequencing; Shiga Toxin-producing Escherichia coli; serotyping; stx subtyping
A multiplex loop-mediated isothermal amplification (mLAMP) assay was developed for simultaneous detection of the stx1 and stx2 genes and applied for detection of shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) in cattle farm samples. Two target genes were distinguished based on Tm values of 85.03 ± 0.54℃ for stx1 and 87.47 ± 0.35℃ for stx2. The mLAMP assay was specific (100% inclusivity and exclusivity), sensitive (with a detection limit as low as 10 fg/µL), and quantifiable (R2 = 0.9313). The efficacy and sensitivity were measured to evaluate applicability of the mLAMP assay to cattle farm samples. A total of 12 (12/253; 4.7%) and 17 (17/253; 6.7%) STEC O157, and 11 (11/236; 4.7%) non-O157 STEC strains were isolated from cattle farm samples by conventional selective culture, immunomagnetic separation, and PCR-based culture methods, respectively. The coinciding multiplex PCR and mLAMP results for the types of shiga toxin revealed the value of the mLAMP assay in terms of accuracy and rapidity for characterizing shiga toxin genes. Furthermore, the high detection rate of specific genes from enrichment broth samples indicates the potential utility of this assay as a screening method for detecting STEC in cattle farm samples.
cattle farm; E. coli O157; LAMP; shiga toxin; stx
Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) are a group of common and potentially deadly intestinal pathogens expressing Shiga toxin (Stx) as a primary virulence factor. Of the two types of Stx, Stx2 is responsible for more severe symptoms during infection, while Stx1 is almost identical to the Shiga toxin from Shigella dysenteriae, a ubiquitous pathogen in developing countries. Although antibodies against Stx1 have been reported, few have reached the affinity needed for assembling highly sensitive immunoassays. Sensitive and affordable immunoassays for Stx1 and Stx2 could help improve detection of STEC in livestock, food, the environment, and in clinical samples resulting in improved food safety and human health.
Method and Findings
Three new monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) against the B subunit of Stx1 were generated using recombinant toxoid Stx1E167Q and hybridoma technology. These new mAbs recognize all subtypes of Stx1, but do not cross-react with any subtype of Stx2. In addition, they exhibited the ability to neutralize Stx1 toxicity in Vero cell assays. An optimized sandwich ELISA using of a pair of these mAbs had a limit of detection of 8.7 pg/mL, which is superior to any existing assay of this kind. Using one of these Stx1 mAbs in concert with Stx2 mAbs, the presence of hybrid Stx1/Stx2 toxin in the culture media of STEC strains that express both Stx1 and Stx2 was demonstrated.
These new mAbs provide a mix of availability, utility, versatility, and most importantly, increased sensitivity for detection of Stx1. There are numerous potential applications for these mAbs, including low-cost detection assays and therapeutic use. Analysis of hybrid Stx1/2 could provide new insights on the structure, activity, and cellular targets of Shiga toxins.
Escherichia coli O157:H7 and other pathogenic E. coli strains are enteric pathogens associated with food safety threats and which remain a significant cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. In the current study, we investigated whether enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC), Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), and enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC) strains can be rapidly and specifically differentiated with multiplex PCR (mPCR) utilizing selected biomarkers associated with each strain’s respective virulence genotype. Primers were designed to amplify multiple intimin (eae) and long polar fimbriae (lpfA) variants, the bundle-forming pilus gene bfpA, and the Shiga toxin-encoding genes stx1 and stx2. We demonstrated consistent amplification of genes specific to the prototype EHEC O157:H7 EDL933 (lpfA1-3, lpfA2-2, stx1, stx2, and eae-γ) and EPEC O127:H6 E2348/69 (eae-α, lpfA1-1, and bfpA) strains using the optimized mPCR protocol with purified genomic DNA (gDNA). A screen of gDNA from isolates in a diarrheagenic E. coli collection revealed that the mPCR assay was successful in predicting the correct pathotype of EPEC and EHEC clones grouped in the distinctive phylogenetic disease clusters EPEC1 and EHEC1, and was able to differentiate EHEC1 from EHEC2 clusters. The assay detection threshold was 2 × 104 CFU per PCR reaction for EHEC and EPEC. mPCR was also used to screen Argentinean clinical samples from hemolytic uremic syndrome and diarrheal patients, resulting in 91% sensitivity and 84% specificity when compared to established molecular diagnostic procedures. In conclusion, our mPCR methodology permitted differentiation of EPEC, STEC and EHEC strains from other pathogenic E. coli; therefore, the assay becomes an additional tool for rapid diagnosis of these organisms.
Shiga toxin-producing E. coli; enterohemorrhagic E. coli; enteropathogenic E. coli; E. coli O157; diagnostics