Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli isolates from red deer (Cervus elaphus), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) and fallow deer (Dama dama) in Poland.Food Microbiol. 2020 Apr; 86:103352.FM
Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia (E.) coli (STEC) pathogens are responsible for the outbreaks of serious diseases in humans, including haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), bloody diarrhoea (BD) and diarrhoea (D), and they pose a significant public health concern. Wild ruminants are an important environmental reservoir of foodborne pathogens that can cause serious illnesses in humans and contaminate fresh products. There is a general scarcity of published data about wildlife as a reservoir of foodborne pathogens in Poland, which is why the potential epidemiological risk associated with red deer, roe deer and fallow deer as reservoirs of STEC/AE-STEC strains was evaluated in this study. The aim of the study was to investigate the prevalence of STEC strains in red deer (Cervus elaphus), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) and fallow deer (Dama dama) populations in north-eastern Poland, and to evaluate the potential health risk associated with wild ruminants carrying STEC/AE-STEC strains. We examined 252 rectal swabs obtained from 134 roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), 97 red deer (Cervus elaphus) and 21 fallow deer (Dama dama) in north-eastern Poland. The samples were enriched in modified buffered peptone water. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays were conducted to determine the virulence profile of stx1, stx2 and eae or aggR genes, to identify the subtypes of stx1 and stx2 genes, and to perform O and H serotyping. E. coli O157:H7 isolates were detected in the rectal swabs collected from 1/134 roe deer (0.75%) and 4/97 red deer (4.1%), and they were not detected in fallow deer (Dama dama). The remaining E. coli serogroups, namely O26, O103, O111 and O145 that belong to the "top five" non-O157 serogroups, were detected in 15/134 roe deer (11.19%), 18/97 red deer (18.56%) and 2/21 fallow deer (9.52%). STEC/AE-STEC strains were detected in 33 roe deer isolates (24.63%), 21 red deer isolates (21.65%) and 2 fallow deer isolates (9.52%). According to the most recent FAO/WHO report, stx2a and eae genes are the primary virulence traits associated with HUS, and these genes were identified in one roe deer isolate and one red deer isolate. Stx2 was the predominant stx gene, and it was detected in 78.79% of roe deer and in 71.43% of red deer isolates. The results of this study confirmed that red deer and roe deer in north-eastern Poland are carriers of STEC/AE-STEC strains that are potentially pathogenic for humans. This is the first report documenting the virulence of STEC/AE-STEC strains from wild ruminants in Poland.