Serotypes, intimin variants and other virulence factors of eae positive Escherichia coli strains isolated from healthy cattle in Switzerland. Identification of a new intimin variant gene (eae-eta2).BMC Microbiol. 2005 May 09; 5:23.BM
Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) and Shigatoxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) share the ability to introduce attaching-and-effacing (A/E) lesions on intestinal cells. The genetic determinants for the production of A/E lesions are located on the locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE), a pathogenicity island that also contains the genes encoding intimin (eae). This study reports information on the occurrence of eae positive E. coli carried by healthy cattle at the point of slaughter, and on serotypes, intimin variants, and further virulence factors of isolated EPEC and STEC strains.
Of 51 eae positive bovine E. coli strains, 59% were classified as EPEC and 41% as STEC. EPEC strains belonged to 18 O:H serotypes, six strains to typical EPEC serogroups. EPEC strains harbored a variety of intimin variants with eae-beta1 being most frequently found. Moreover, nine EPEC strains harbored astA (EAST1), seven bfpA (bundlin), and only one strain was positive for the EAF plasmid. We have identified a new intimin gene (eta2) in three bovine bfpA and astA-positive EPEC strains of serotype ONT:H45. STEC strains belonged to seven O:H serotypes with one serotype (O103:H2) accounting for 48% of the strains. The majority of bovine STEC strains (90%) belonged to five serotypes previously reported in association with hemolytic uremic syndrom (HUS), including one O157:H7 STEC strain. STEC strains harbored four intimin variants with eae-epsilon1 and eae-gamma1 being most frequently found. Moreover, the majority of STEC strains carried only stx1 genes (13 strains), and was positive for ehxA (18 strains) encoding for Enterohemolysin. Four STEC strains showed a virulence pattern characteristic of highly virulent human strains (stx2 and eae positive).
Our data confirm that ruminants are an important source of serologically and genetically diverse intimin-harboring E. coli strains. Moreover, cattle have not only to be considered as important asymptomatic carriers of O157 STEC but can also be a reservoir of EPEC and eae positive non-O157 STEC, which are described in association with human diseases.