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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2008 Nov;74(22):7043-50. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01395-08. Epub 2008 Sep 26.

Comparison of extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli strains from human and avian sources reveals a mixed subset representing potential zoonotic pathogens.

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Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, Minnesota 551081, USA.


Since extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli (ExPEC) strains from human and avian hosts encounter similar challenges in establishing infection in extraintestinal locations, they may share similar contents of virulence genes and capacities to cause disease. In the present study, 1,074 ExPEC isolates were classified by phylogenetic group and possession of 67 other traits, including virulence-associated genes and plasmid replicon types. These ExPEC isolates included 452 avian pathogenic E. coli strains from avian colibacillosis, 91 neonatal meningitis E. coli (NMEC) strains causing human neonatal meningitis, and 531 uropathogenic E. coli strains from human urinary tract infections. Cluster analysis of the data revealed that most members of each subpathotype represent a genetically distinct group and have distinguishing characteristics. However, a genotyping cluster containing 108 ExPEC isolates was identified, heavily mixed with regard to subpathotype, in which there was substantial trait overlap. Many of the isolates within this cluster belonged to the O1, O2, or O18 serogroup. Also, 58% belonged to the ST95 multilocus sequence typing group, and over 90% of them were assigned to the B2 phylogenetic group typical of human ExPEC strains. This cluster contained strains with a high number of both chromosome- and plasmid-associated ExPEC genes. Further characterization of this ExPEC subset with zoonotic potential urges future studies exploring the potential for the transmission of certain ExPEC strains between humans and animals. Also, the widespread occurrence of plasmids among NMEC strains and members of the mixed cluster suggests that plasmid-mediated virulence in these pathotypes warrants further attention.

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