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J Clin Microbiol. 1997 Aug;35(8):2051-4.

Evaluation of the premier EHEC assay for detection of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Medical College of Wisconsin, and Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, Milwaukee 53226, USA. kskehl@post.its.mcw.edu


An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for the detection of Shiga toxins (Premier EHEC assay; Meridian Diagnostics, Inc.) was compared to conventional sorbitol-MacConkey culture for the recovery of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli. A total of 74 enteric pathogens, including 8 E. coli O157:H7 isolates, were recovered from 974 stool specimens. Two of these specimens were not tested by Premier assaying due to insufficient sample and are not considered in the data analysis. The Premier EHEC assay detected the 6 evaluable specimens which were culture positive for E. coli O157:H7 and identified an additional 10 specimens as containing Shiga toxin. Seven isolates were recovered from these 10 specimens by an immunoblot assay and were confirmed as toxin producers by a cytotoxin assay. Of these seven, four isolates were serotype O157:H7, one was O26:NM, one was O6:H-, and one was O untypeable:H untypeable. Three specimens contained Shiga toxin by both EHEC immunoassaying and cytotoxin testing; however, no cytotoxin-producing E. coli could be recovered. The sorbitol-MacConkey method had a sensitivity and a specificity of 60 and 100%, respectively, while the Premier EHEC assay had a sensitivity and a specificity of 100 and 99.7%, respectively, for E. coli O157:H7 only. The Premier EHEC assay also detected an additional 20% Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) that were non-O157:H7. Thus, the Premier EHEC assay is a sensitive and specific method for the detection of all STEC isolates. Routine use would improve the detection of E. coli O157:H7 and allow for determination of the true incidence of STEC other than O157:H7. The presence of blood in the stool and/or the ages of the patients were poor predictors of the presence of STEC. Criteria need to be determined which would allow for the cost-effective incorporation of this assay into the routine screen for enteric pathogens in high-risk individuals, especially children.

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