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Emerg Infect Dis. 2014 Oct;20(10):1669-77. doi: 10.3201/eid2010.140292.

Clinical isolates of Shiga toxin 1a-producing Shigella flexneri with an epidemiological link to recent travel to Hispañiola.


Shiga toxins (Stx) are cytotoxins involved in severe human intestinal disease. These toxins are commonly found in Shigella dysenteriae serotype 1 and Shiga-toxin-producing Escherichia coli; however, the toxin genes have been found in other Shigella species. We identified 26 Shigella flexneri serotype 2 strains isolated by public health laboratories in the United States during 2001-2013, which encode the Shiga toxin 1a gene (stx1a). These strains produced and released Stx1a as measured by cytotoxicity and neutralization assays using anti-Stx/Stx1a antiserum. The release of Stx1a into culture supernatants increased ≈100-fold after treatment with mitomycin C, suggesting that stx1a is carried by a bacteriophage. Infectious phage were found in culture supernatants and increased ≈1,000-fold with mitomycin C. Whole-genome sequencing of several isolates and PCR analyses of all strains confirmed that stx1a was carried by a lambdoid bacteriophage. Furthermore, all patients who reported foreign travel had recently been to Hispañiola, suggesting that emergence of these novel strains is associated with that region.

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