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Foodborne Pathog Dis. 2011 Apr;8(4):555-60. doi: 10.1089/fpd.2010.0764. Epub 2010 Dec 27.

Laboratory practices for the identification of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli in the United States, FoodNet sites, 2007.

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  • 1New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Communicable Disease Control, Albany, New York 12237, USA.


Clinical laboratory practices affect patient care and disease surveillance. It is recommended that laboratories routinely use both culture for Escherichia coli O157 and a method that detects Shiga toxins (Stx) to identify all Stx-producing E. coli (STEC) and that labs send broths or isolates to a public health laboratory. In 2007, we surveyed laboratories serving Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network sites that performed on-site enteric disease diagnostic testing to determine their culture and nonculture-based testing practices for STEC identification. Our goals were to measure changes over time in laboratory practices and to compare reported practices with published recommendations. Overall, 89% of laboratories used only culture-based methods, 7% used only Stx enzyme immunoassay (EIA), and 4% used both Stx EIA and culture-based methods. Only 2% of laboratories reported simultaneous culture for O157 STEC and use of Stx EIA. The proportion that ever used Stx EIA increased from 6% in 2003 to 11% in 2007. The proportion that routinely tested all specimens with at least one method was 66% in 2003 versus 71% in 2007. Reference laboratories were less likely than others to test all specimens routinely by one or more of these methods (48% vs. 73%, p=0.03). As of 2007, most laboratories complied with recommendations for O157 STEC testing by culture but not with recommendations for detection of non-O157 STEC. The proportion of laboratories that culture stools for O157 STEC has changed little since 2003, whereas testing for Stx has increased.

© Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.

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