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Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2003 Apr;228(4):345-51.

Verotoxin-producing Escherichia coli in Spain: prevalence, serotypes, and virulence genes of O157:H7 and non-O157 VTEC in ruminants, raw beef products, and humans.

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Laboratorio de Referencia de E. coli, Departamento de Microbiología y Parasitología, Facultad de Veterinaria, Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, Campus de Lugo, 27002 Lugo, Spain.


In Spain, as in many other countries, verotoxin-producing Escherichia coli (VTEC) strains have been frequently isolated from cattle, sheep, and foods. VTEC strains have caused seven outbreaks in Spain (six caused by E. coli O157:H7 and one by E. coli O111:H- [nonmotile]) in recent years. An analysis of the serotypes indicated serological diversity. Among the strains isolated from humans, serotypes O26:H11, O111:H-, and O157:H7 were found to be more prevalent. The most frequently detected serotypes in cattle were O20:H19, O22:H8, O26:H11, O77:H41, O105:H18, O113:H21, O157:H7, O171:H2, and OUT (O untypeable):H19. Different VTEC serotypes (e.g., O5:H-, O6:H10, O91:H-, O117:H-, O128:H-, O128:H2, O146:H8, O146:H21, O156:H-, and OUT:H21) were found more frequently in sheep. These observations suggest a host serotype specificity for some VTEC. Numerous bovine and ovine VTEC serotypes detected in Spain were associated with human illnesses, confirming that ruminants are important reservoirs of pathogenic VTEC. VTEC can produce one or two toxins (VT1 and VT2) that cause human illnesses. These toxins are different proteins encoded by different genes. Another virulence factor expressed by VTEC is the protein intimin that is responsible for intimate attachment of VTEC and effacing lesions in the intestinal mucosa. This virulence factor is encoded by the chromosomal gene eae. The eae gene was found at a much less frequency in bovine (17%) and ovine (5%) than in human (45%) non-O157 VTEC strains. This may support the evidence that the eae gene contributes significantly to the virulence of human VTEC strains and that many animal non-O157 VTEC strains are less pathogenic to humans.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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