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Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 2012 Jun;31(6):899-904. doi: 10.1007/s10096-011-1395-7. Epub 2011 Sep 7.

Differentiation between Shigella, enteroinvasive Escherichia coli (EIEC) and noninvasive Escherichia coli.

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Bacteriology, Laboratory for Infectious Diseases and Perinatal Screening, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, PO Box 1, Postvak 22, 3720, BA, Bilthoven, The Netherlands.


Shigella causes bacillary dysentery and is classified into four species based on their antigen characteristics. This classification does not reflect genetic relatedness; in fact, Shigella species are so related to Escherichia coli , they should be classified as one distinctive species in the genus Escherichia. The differentiation of Shigella and E. coli is even more complicated with the description of enteroinvasive E. coli (EIEC). EIEC are strains that possess some of the biochemical characteristics of E. coli and have the ability to cause dysentery using the same method of invasion as Shigella does. Sequencing of multiple housekeeping genes indicates that EIEC is more related to Shigella than to non-invasive E. coli. Shigella and EIEC evolved from the same ancestor and form a single pathovar within E. coli. Shigella and EIEC could be separated from other E. coli by a PCR targeting the ipaH-gene; this is a multicopy gene exclusively found in all Shigella and EIEC. It is possible to differentiate Shigella and all E. coli, including EIEC, by using multiple tests, including ipaH-gene PCR, physiological and biochemical typing and serological typing. Based on literature study, a key is designed for daily use in diagnostic laboratories to identify Shigella and all E. coli.

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