Sorbitol-fermenting Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157 in Austria.Wien Klin Wochenschr. 2009; 121(3-4):108-12.WK
Infections with enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) are the major cause of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), the most common cause of acute renal failure in childhood. Shiga toxins are considered to be the most important virulence factor of EHEC strains. Non-sorbitol-fermenting EHEC O157:H7 is still the most prevalent serotype isolated worldwide; however, sorbitol-fermenting (SF) EHEC O157:H- (H- indicates nonmotility) strains are increasingly reported. Thirteen SF EHEC O157:H- strains (11 of human origin, two from animals) were detected in Austria between 2002 and 2008. Among the 11 human cases, seven suffered from HUS, two from diarrhea and the remaining two were asymptomatic. Seven of the cases were identified in patients living in or visiting (in one case) the province Salzburg, four were in patients from the province Vorarlberg. Three outbreaks with no more than three persons involved were detected, the other four cases occurred sporadically. The pulsed-field gel-electrophoresis banding patterns of the 13 SF EHEC O157:H- isolates were grouped into three distinct clusters (groups 1, 2 and 3). Strains of the three outbreaks were identical (except for one outbreak strain with one band difference) within each outbreak. In comparison, the Bavarian epidemic strain showed a pattern different from all SF O157:H- strains isolated in Austria. For effective detection of SF EHEC O157:H-, screening for Shiga toxins by ELISA and/or Shiga toxin genes by PCR is absolutely necessary; screening on the basis of phenotypic characteristics such as sorbitol-non-fermentation is not sufficient. Typing methods relying solely on investigation of O157 will detect these strains but should nevertheless also be avoided, so that the prevalent non-O157 strains causing HUS are not missed.