Serotypes and virulence genes of ovine non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli in Switzerland.Int J Food Microbiol. 2004 Aug 15; 95(1):19-27.IJ
Sixty ovine STEC strains were examined with the aim (i) to serotype the strains, (ii) to characterize virulence factors, and (iii) to discuss possible associations between these factors and to assess the potential pathogenicity of these strains for humans. The 60 sorbitol-positive, non-O157 STEC strains belonged to 19 O:H serotypes, whereas 68% were of five serotypes (O87:H16, O91:H-, O103:H2, O128:H2, O176:H4). 52% belonged to serotypes reported in association with HUS. Five serotypes were not previously reported in sheep strains. Of the 47 strains encoding for stx1 variants, 57% were stx1c- and of the 45 encoding for stx2 variants, 80% were stx2d-positive. Eighty-two percent of the strains showed further putative virulence factors: 13% were eae-, 60% ehxA- and 67% saa-positive. The associations between harboring (i) eae and stx1, stx2, ehxA or no saa and (ii) saa and stx1c or stx2d were significant (P<0.05). The strains belonged to 27 seropathotypes (association between serotypes and virulence factors), but 57% belonged to only six and O91:H-stx1 stx2d saa and O128:H2 stx1c stx2d ehxA saa were the most common. Seven of the eight intimin-positive strains harbored eae. Four strains of serotype O103:H2 and O121:H10 harboring stx2, eae and ehxA showed virulence factors typical for strains associated with severe human disease. However, according to the virulence factors, the majority of the ovine non-O157 STEC strains are assumed low-virulence variants. Nevertheless, as long as the contribution and interaction of these factors in milder disease remains unclear P, a certain risk for humans cannot be excluded.