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J Food Prot. 2011 Jul;74(7):1186-8. doi: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-11-022.

Escherichia coli O157:H7 genetic diversity in bovine fecal samples.

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Department of Diagnostic Medicine and Pathobiology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas 66506, USA.


Escherichia coli O157:H7 causes foodborne illness in humans; cattle are considered a primary reservoir for the organism, and transmission is often through contaminated food products or water. The objective of this study was to determine the genetic diversity of E. coli O157:H7 within a single individual bovine fecal sample based on pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) typing. Fecal samples (n=601) were collected from dairy and beef cattle at three separate facilities, and E. coli O157:H7 was isolated by enrichment, immunomagnetic separation, and plating on selective medium. The prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 was 46 (7.7%) of 601. From each positive fecal sample, up to 10 putative colonies were tested, and isolates from samples with at least seven positive colonies were subtyped using PFGE and tested for six major virulence genes by multiplex PCR. A total of 254 E. coli O157:H7 isolates from 27 samples met these criteria and were included in PFGE analysis. Fifteen PFGE subtypes (<100% Dice similarity) were detected among the 254 isolates, and there were no common subtypes between the three locations. Seven (26%) of 27 fecal samples had E. coli O157:H7 isolates with different PFGE subtypes (mean=2.1) within the same sample. The virulence gene profiles of different isolates from the same sample were always identical, regardless of the number of PFGE types. The results of this study suggest that determining the PFGE pattern of a single isolate from a bovine sample may not be sufficient when comparing isolates from feces, hides, or carcasses, because multiple PFGE subtypes are present.

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