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Microbiology. 2005 Jan;151(Pt 1):15-23.

Influence of the age and sex of human hosts on the distribution of Escherichia coli ECOR groups and virulence traits.

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School of Botany and Zoology, Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia.


Escherichia coli were isolated from the faeces of 266 individuals living in the Canberra region of Australia. The isolates were characterized for their ECOR group membership (A, B1, B2 or D) and for the presence of 29 virulence-associated traits. Overall, 19.5 % of the strains were members of group A, 12.4 % B1, 45.1 % B2 and 22.9 % D. The frequency with which strains belonging to the four ECOR groups were observed varied with the age and sex of the hosts from which they were isolated. In males, the probability of isolating A or D strains increased with host age, whilst the probability of detecting a group B2 strain declined. In females, the probability of recovering A or B2 strains increased with increasing host age and there was a concomitant decline in the likelihood of isolating B1 or D strains. Of the 29 virulence-associated traits examined, 24 were detected in more than one strain. The likelihood of detecting most traits varied with a strain's ECOR membership, with the exception of afa/draBC, astA, cvaC, eaeA, iss and iutA, for which there was no statistically significant evidence of an association with ECOR group. The frequency with which fimH, iha, eaeA, iroN, hlyD, iss, ompT and K1 were detected in a strain depended on the age or sex of the host from which the strain was isolated. In group B2 strains many of the virulence traits were non-randomly associated, with some co-occurring in a strain less often than expected by chance, whilst others were co-associated. In 17 cases, the extent to which two virulence traits were co-associated was found to depend on host sex and age. The results of this study suggest that the morphological, physiological and dietary differences that occur among human individuals of different sex or age may influence the distribution of E. coli genotypes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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