Relationship between phylogenetic groups, genotypic clusters, and virulence gene profiles of Escherichia coli strains from diverse human and animal sources

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Abstract

Escherichia coli strains in water may originate from various sources, including humans, farm and wild animals, waterfowl, and pets. However, potential human health hazards associated with E. coli strains present in various animal hosts are not well known. In this study, E. coli strains from diverse human and animal sources in Minnesota and western Wisconsin were analyzed for the presence of genes coding for virulence factors by using multiplex PCR and biochemical reactions. Of the 1,531 isolates examined, 31 (2%) were found to be Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) strains. The majority of these strains, which were initially isolated from the ruminants sheep, goats, and deer, carried the stx1c and/or stx2d, ehxA, and saa genes and belonged to E. coli phylogenetic group B1, indicating that they most likely do not cause severe human diseases. All the STEC strains, however, lacked eae. In contrast, 26 (1.7%) of the E. coli isolates examined were found to be potential enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC) strains and consisted of several intimin subtypes that were distributed among various human and animal hosts. The EPEC strains belonged to all four phylogenetic groups examined, suggesting that EPEC strains were relatively widespread in terms of host animals and genetic background. Atypical EPEC strains, which carried an EPEC adherence factor plasmid, were identified among E. coli strains from humans and deer. DNA fingerprint analyses, done using the horizontal, fluorophore-enhanced repetitive-element, palindromic PCR technique, indicated that the STEC, potential EPEC, and non-STEC ehxA-positive E. coli strains were genotypically distinct and clustered independently. However, some of the potential EPEC isolates were genotypically indistinguishable from nonpathogenic E. coli strains. Our results revealed that potential human health hazards associated with pathogenic E. coli strains varied among the animal hosts that we examined and that some animal species may harbor a greater number of potential pathogenic strains than other animal species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5703-5710
Number of pages8
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Volume73
Issue number18
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2007

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