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J Infect Dis. 1998 Jun;177(6):1750-3.

Genotypic and phenotypic changes in the emergence of Escherichia coli O157:H7.

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Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, US Food and Drug Administration, Washington, DC, USA.


Escherichia coli O157:H7 is a foodborne pathogen distinguished from typical E. coli by the production of Shiga toxins (Stx) and the inability to ferment sorbitol (SOR) and to express beta-glucuronidase (GUD) activity. An allele-specific probe for the GUD gene (uidA) and multilocus enzyme electrophoresis were used to elucidate stages in the evolutionary emergence of E. coli O157: H7. A point mutation at +92 in uidA was found only in O157:H7 and its nonmotile relatives, including a SOR+ O157:H clone implicated in outbreaks of hemolytic-uremic syndrome in Germany. The results support a model in which O157:H7 evolved sequentially from an O55:H7 ancestor, first by acquiring the Stx2 gene and then by diverging into two branches; one became GUD- SOR- , resulting in the O157:H7 clone that spread worldwide, and the other lost motility, leading to the O157:H clone that is an increasing public health problem in Europe.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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