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Emerg Infect Dis. 2003 Dec;9(12):1592-7.

The rabbit as a new reservoir host of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli.

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Division of Comparative Medicine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


We investigated the prevalence of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) in rabbits acquired from two commercial vendors and a local petting zoo. Fecal samples from 34 Dutch Belted (DB) and 15 New Zealand White (NZW) rabbits were cultured; and isolates were biotyped, serotyped, tested by polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and genotyped by repetitive-element sequence-based PCR (Rep-PCR). Seven (25%) of 28 DB rabbits acquired from one commercial source were positive for EHEC, including O153:H- and O153:H7. One (9%) of 11 NZW rabbits from the same source was positive for eae-, stx1+ O153 strains. In contrast, six DB rabbits from another commercial source and four rabbits from a petting zoo were negative for EHEC. Rep-PCR demonstrated that the O153 EHEC and O145 enteropathogenic E. coli were two distinct clones. Our study indicates that rabbits are a new reservoir host of EHEC that may pose a zoonotic risk for humans.

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