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Can J Microbiol. 2008 Dec;54(12):984-95. doi: 10.1139/W08-090.

Heterogeneity in enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli O157:H7 fecal shedding in cattle is related to Escherichia coli O157:H7 colonization of the small and large intestine.

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Lethbridge Research Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Lethbridge, ABT1J4B1, Canada.


In the last decade, Escherichia coli O157:H7 have emerged as important pathogens of the gastrointestinal tract of humans. Healthy cattle have been identified as the primary reservoir, however, the factors affecting heterogeneous E. coli O157:H7 fecal shedding are not fully understood. The aim of this study was to investigate the contribution of E. coli O157:H7 colonization of small and large intestinal sites to the heterogeneity of fecal shedding in cattle. There was a dose-dependant E. coli O157:H7 E318N colonization of duodenum, jejunum, ileum, cecum, ascending colon, spiral colon, descending colon, and the rectoanal junction in vitro with no difference in E. coli O157:H7 colonization of the rectoanal junction and other intestinal sites. There were 10-100 times greater E. coli O157:H7 colonization of intestinal sites from persistent shedding cattle compared with non persistent shedding cattle. Novel pathologies were associated with E. coli O157:H7 colonization sites in the small and large intestine. The first pathology, focal petechiae, was present throughout the intestinal tract of cattle that ceased shedding E. coli O157:H7 for 5-12 weeks or in the jejunum, ileum, cecum, and ascending colon of cattle shedding E. coli O157:H7 for 4-5 months. The second pathology, mucosal hemorrhages, was present in the same sites as the focal petechiae in cattle shedding for 5 months and these hemorrhages were in the final stages of repair. Several features of these hemorrhages support this conclusion including the brown appearance, low amount of classic E. coli O157:H7 induced A/E lesions, flattened epithelium, and blunted villi. Although mucosal hemorrhages were present in the jejunum, ileum, cecum, and ascending colon in cattle shedding for 4 months, many other pathologies were also present that were indicative of hemorrhagic enteritis as evidenced by the blood red appearance of hemorrhages, severe edema, and dark red erythema. Escherichia coli O157:H7 were associated with both pathologies suggesting it is the causative agent. The current study supports a relationship between the amount of E. coli O157:H7 colonization in intestinal sites and heterogeneous fecal shedding by cattle.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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