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Vet J. 2009 Jun;180(3):384-8. doi: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2008.01.011. Epub 2008 Mar 11.

Detection and characterisation of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli other than Escherichia coli O157:H7 in wild ruminants.

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Patología Infecciosa y Epidemiología, Departamento de Sanidad Animal, Facultad de Veterinaria, Universidad de Extremadura, Avda. de la Universidad s/n, 10071 Cáceres, Spain.


Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) are an important group of emerging pathogens, with ruminants recognised as their main natural reservoir. The aim of this work was to establish the prevalence of non-O157 STEC in free-ranging wild ruminants in the Extremadura region of Spain and to characterise them phenogenotypically. Faecal samples were collected from 243 wild ruminants, including Cervus elaphus, Capreolus capreolus, Dama dama and Ovis musimon and were examined for STEC using both phenotypic (Vero cells) and genotypic (PCR and PFGE) methods. Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli were isolated from 58 (23.9%) of the samples and a total of 65 isolates were characterised. A PCR method indicated that 11 (16.9%) strains carried the stx(1) gene, 44 (67.7%) carried the stx(2) gene and 10 (15.4%) carried both these genes. The ehxA gene was detected in 37 (57%) of the isolates but none contained either the eae or saa genes. The isolates were from a total of 12 'O' serogroups, although 80% were restricted to the O2, O8, O128, O146, O166 and O174 serogroups. The most commonly isolated STEC bacteria, which were from the O146 serogroup, exhibited a high degree of polymorphism as indicated by PFGE. Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli isolates of serogroups O20, O25, O166, O171, O174 and O176 had not previously been found in wild ruminants. This is the first study to confirm that wild ruminants in Spain are a reservoir of STEC and are thus a potential source of human infection.

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