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J Clin Microbiol. 2013 Feb;51(2):481-6. doi: 10.1128/JCM.02219-12. Epub 2012 Nov 21.

Comparison of three different methods for detection of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli in a tertiary pediatric care center.

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Département de Microbiologie et Immunologie, CHU Sainte-Justine, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada.


Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) is a well-known cause of sporadic and epidemic food-borne gastroenteritis. A low infectious dose, approximately 10 microorganisms, is sufficient to cause disease that may lead to hemolytic-uremic syndrome. The objective of this study was to compare the performances of an in-house real-time PCR, a commercial enzyme immunoassay (EIA) (Premier EHEC; Meridian Bioscience), and culture on sorbitol MacConkey agar for the detection of STEC in a tertiary care pediatric hospital. Of 632 stool samples tested, 21 were positive for STEC. All were detected by PCR, 6 were detected by EIA, and only 5 O157 STEC isolates were identified by culture. Among the 15 specimens falsely negative by EIA, there were 9 Stx1, 2 Stx2, and 4 Stx1 and Stx2 STEC isolates. The latter group included 2 O157 STEC isolates that would have been missed if only EIA had been performed. To our knowledge, this is the first prospective study performed in a pediatric hospital which demonstrates the superiority of PCR over EIA for the detection of STEC. We conclude that PCR is specific and more sensitive than EIA. PCR should be considered for routine use in clinical settings where molecular detection facilities are available. Its lower limit of detection, equivalent to the infectious dose, is an obvious advantage for patient care and public health surveillance.

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