Subtilase cytotoxin encoding genes are present in human, sheep and deer intimin-negative, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O128:H2.Vet Microbiol. 2012 Oct 12; 159(3-4):531-5.VM
Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O128:H2 is recognised worldwide to be an important non-O157 STEC associated with human illness and in particular with causing haemolytic uraemic syndrome. This serotype is commonly isolated from sheep and is being increasingly isolated from deer. We determined the virulence profile and genetic relationships of one human, six sheep and five deer intimin-negative STEC O128:H2 strains isolated in Spain over a 7-year period. Our goals were to establish the presence of other virulence-associated factors, such as SubAB, in intimin-negative STEC O128:H2 strains involved in human disease and in that case, to determine if sheep and/or deer represent a reservoir of SubAB-positive STEC O128:H2. All the strains lacked the eae gene and carried subtilase cytotoxin (SubAB) encoding genes (subAB) and tia genes, but not saa gene, suggesting the presence of the recently identified new variant of SubAB, encoded on a putative pathogenicity island together with tia. We report for the first time the presence of subtilase cytotoxin encoding genes in intimin-negative STEC O128:H2 strains pathogenic for humans and how this finding might explain their clinical relevance despite neither carrying eae nor stx subtypes associated with severe clinical outcomes, but only stx1c and stx2b. Multilocus sequence typing analysis revealed that STEC O128:H2 strains from sheep and deer belong to the clonal lineage of STEC O128:H2 strains involved in diarrhoeal and haemorrhagic diseases in humans. Our results indicate that sheep and deer represent a reservoir of SubAB-positive STEC O128:H2 strains and thus a potential source of human infection.