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Vet Microbiol. 2011 Mar 24;148(2-4):317-22. doi: 10.1016/j.vetmic.2010.09.012. Epub 2010 Sep 17.

Oral infection with a Shiga toxin-negative Escherichia coli O157:H7 strain elicits humoral and cellular responses but does not protect sheep from colonisation with the homologous strain.

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Laboratory of Immunology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Salisburylaan 133, 9820 Merelbeke, Belgium.


We have previously shown that rectally inoculated sheep excrete Escherichia coli O157:H7 during weeks to months without developing a clear antibody response. However, antibodies against this bacterium were observed in naturally infected sheep, which most likely became orally infected. To understand this difference, sheep were orally inoculated with the same Shiga toxin-negative E. coli O157:H7 strain that was used for the rectal inoculation. A primary oral inoculation resulted in shedding of E. coli O157:H7 in the faeces and detection of antibody responses against intimin, EspA and EspB. The antibody titres waned as shedding decreased. A secondary inoculation resulted in longer shedding, even though a booster antibody response occurred. Cellular responses followed a similar pattern as the antibody levels, albeit with a lower secondary response. The presence of antigen-specific antibody-secreting cells indicates involvement of both a systemic response in the spleen and a local immune response in the terminal rectum. These results suggest that E. coli O157:H7 has to pass the small intestine to evoke antibody responses.

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