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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2009 Oct;75(20):6462-70. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00904-09. Epub 2009 Aug 21.

Assessment of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli isolates from wildlife meat as potential pathogens for humans.

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National Reference Laboratory for Escherichia coli, Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), Diedersdorfer Weg 1, D-12277 Berlin, Germany.


A total of 140 Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains from wildlife meat (deer, wild boar, and hare) isolated in Germany between 1998 and 2006 were characterized with respect to their serotypes and virulence markers associated with human pathogenicity. The strains grouped into 38 serotypes, but eight O groups (21, 146, 128, 113, 22, 88, 6, and 91) and four H types (21, 28, 2, and 8) accounted for 71.4% and 75.7% of all STEC strains from game, respectively. Eighteen of the serotypes, including enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) O26:[H11] and O103:H2, were previously found to be associated with human illness. Genes linked to high-level virulence for humans (stx(2), stx(2d), and eae) were present in 46 (32.8%) STEC strains from game. Fifty-four STEC isolates from game belonged to serotypes which are frequently found in human patients (O103:H2, O26:H11, O113:H21, O91:H21, O128:H2, O146:H21, and O146:H28). These 54 STEC isolates were compared with 101 STEC isolates belonging to the same serotypes isolated from farm animals, from their food products, and from human patients. Within a given serotype, most STEC strains were similar with respect to their stx genotypes and other virulence attributes, regardless of origin. The 155 STEC strains were analyzed for genetic similarity by XbaI pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. O103:H2, O26:H11, O113:H21, O128:H2, and O146:H28 STEC isolates from game were 85 to 100% similar to STEC isolates of the same strains from human patients. By multilocus sequence typing, game EHEC O103:H2 strains were attributed to a clonal lineage associated with hemorrhagic diseases in humans. The results from our study indicate that game animals represent a reservoir for and a potential source of human pathogenic STEC and EHEC strains.

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