Phylogenetic backgrounds and virulenceassociated traits of Escherichia coli isolates from surface waters and diverse animals in Minnesota and Wisconsin

James R. Johnson, Brian D. Johnston, Parissa Delavari, Paul Thuras, Connie Clabots, Michael J. Sadowsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Possible external reservoirs for extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli (ExPEC) strains that cause infections in humans are poorly defined. Because of the tremendous human health importance of ExPEC infections, we assessed surface waters and domesticated and wild animals in Minnesota and Wisconsin as potential reservoirs of ExPEC of human health relevance. We characterized 595 E. coli isolates (obtained from 1999 to 2002; 280 from seven surface water sites, 315 from feces of 13 wild and domesticated animal species) for phylogroup and virulence genotype, including inferred ExPEC status, by using multiplex PCR-based methods. We also compared the pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) profiles of the isolates with a large private PFGE profile library. We found a predominance of non-ExPEC strains (95% and 93% among water and animal isolates, respectively), which were mainly from phylogroups A and B1, plus a minority of ExPEC strains (5% and 7% among water isolates and animal isolates, respectively), predominantly from phylogroup B2. The ExPEC strains, although significantly associated with cats, dogs, and turkeys, occurred in several additional animal species (goat, horse, chicken, pig) and were distributed broadly across all surface water sites. Virulence gene content among the animal source ExPEC isolates segregated significantly in relation to host species, following established patterns. PFGE analysis indicated that 11 study isolates closely matched (94% to 100% profile similarity) reference human clinical and fecal isolates. These findings imply what probably is a low but non-zero risk to humans from environmental and animal source E. coli isolates, especially those from specific humanassociated animal species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01329-17
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 American Society for Microbiology.


  • Animals
  • Environmental microbiology
  • Escherichia coli
  • Extraintestinal diseases
  • Microbial source tracking
  • Molecular epidemiology
  • Reservoir
  • Virulence factors
  • Water


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