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J Med Microbiol. 2001 Feb;50(2):135-42.

Verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli (VTEC) O157 and other VTEC from human infections in England and Wales: 1995-1998.

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Division of Gastrointestinal Infections, Central Public Health Laboratory, London.


A total of 3429 isolations of verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli O157 (VTEC O157) was confirmed from human sources in England and Wales during the period 1995-1998. The largest annual total was 1087 in 1997. Most infections occurred in the third quarter of each year. The overall rate of infection ranged from 1.28 to 2.10/100,000 population and showed regional variation. The highest incidence was in children aged 1-4 years. Annually, between 5% and 11% of strains were from patients who had travelled abroad. There were 67 general outbreaks of infection represented by 407 (11.9%) VTEC O157 isolates. Outbreaks involved transmission by contaminated food or water, person-to-person spread and direct or indirect animal contact, and five were associated with foreign travel. The majority (76%) of strains carried verocytotoxin (VT) 2 genes and 23.3% were VT1+VT2. Most strains had the flagellar antigen H7, but c. 14% were non-motile. Approximately 20% of isolates were resistant to antimicrobial agents, predominantly streptomycin, sulphonamides and tetracycline. In addition to VTEC O157, strains of serogroup O157 that did not possess VT genes were identified. These were either derivatives of VTEC O157 that had lost VT genes or were strains with H antigens other than H7 that have never been associated with VT production. Strains of VTEC other than O157 were characterised. Most were associated with diarrhoea, bloody diarrhoea or haemolytic uraemic syndrome and had virulence markers in addition to VT.

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