Clinical Escherichia coli strains carrying stx genes: stx variants and stx-positive virulence profiles.J Clin Microbiol. 2002 Dec; 40(12):4585-93.JC
Altogether, 173 Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) serotype O157 (n = 111) and non-O157 (n = 62) isolates from 170 subjects were screened by PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism for eight different stx genes. The results were compiled according to serotypes, phage types of O157, production of Stx toxin and enterohemolysin, and the presence of eae. The stx genes occurred in 11 combinations; the most common were stx(2) with stx(2c) (42%), stx(2) alone (21%), and stx(1) alone (16%). Of the O157 strains, 64% carried stx(2) with stx(2c) versus 2% of the non-O157 strains (P < 0.001). In the non-O157 strains, the prevailing gene was stx(1) (99% versus 1% in O157 strains; P < 0.001). In addition, one strain (O Rough:H4:stx(2c)) which has not previously been described as associated with hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS) was found. Ten stx-positive virulence profiles were responsible for 71% of all STEC infections. Of these profiles, five accounted for 71% of the 21 strains isolated from 20 patients with HUS or thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP). The strains having the virulence profile that caused mainly HUS or TTP or bloody diarrhea produced Stx with titers of >/=1:128 (90%) more commonly than did other strains (51%; P < 0.001). These strains were also more commonly enterohemolytic (98% versus 68% for other strains; P < 0.001) and possessed the eae gene (100%) more commonly than did other strains (74%; P < 0.001). A particular virulence profile, O157:H7:PT2:stx(2):stx(2c):eae:Ehly, was significantly more frequently associated with HUS and bloody diarrhea than were other profiles (P = 0.02) and also caused the deaths of two children. In this study, the risk factors for severe symptoms were an age of <5 years and infection by the strain of O157:H7:PT2 mentioned above.