Three strains of verotoxin-producing Escherichia coli isolated from patients with haemorrhagic colitis harboured plasmids ranging in size from 2.7 kb to 91.2 kb. Those plasmids ranging from 2.7 kb to 6.8 kb hybridized to Shiga-like toxin I and Shiga-like toxin II gene probes.
Nine Escherichia coli O157: H7/- strains isolated primarily from non-clinical sources in Thailand and Japan carried the stx(2) gene but did not produce Stx2 toxin in a reversed passive latex agglutination (RPLA) assay. A strain (EDL933) bearing a stx(2) phage (933W) was compared to a strain (Thai-12) that was Stx2-negative but contained the stx(2) gene. To study the lack of Stx2 production, the Thai-12 stx(2) gene and its upstream nucleotide sequence were analyzed. The Thai-12 stx(2) coding region was intact and Stx2 was expressed from a cloned stx(2) gene using a plasmid vector and detected using RPLA. A lacZ fusion analysis found the Thai-12 stx(2) promoter non-functional. Because the stx(2) gene is downstream of the late promoter in the stx(2) phage genome, the antitermination activity of Q protein is essential for strong stx(2) transcription. Thai-12 had the q gene highly homologous to that of Phi21 phage but not to the 933W phage. High-level expression of exogenous q genes demonstrated Q antitermination activity was weak in Thai-12. Replication of stx(2) phage was not observed in Stx2-negative strains. The q-stx(2) gene sequence of Thai-12 was well conserved in all Stx2-negative strains. A PCR assay to detect the Thai-12 q-stx(2) sequence demonstrated that 30% of O157 strains from marketed Malaysian beef carried this sequence and they produced little or no Stx2. These results suggest that stx(2)-positive O157 strains that produce little or no Stx2 may be widely distributed in the Asian environment.
Twenty-five and three strains of Escherichia coli O157:H7 were identified from 25 tenderloin beef and three chicken meat burger samples, respectively. The bacteria were recovered using the immunomagnetic separation procedure followed by selective plating on sorbitol MacConkey agar and were identified as E. coli serotype O157:H7 with three primer pairs that amplified fragments of the SLT-I, SLT-II and H7 genes in PCR assays. Susceptibility testing to 14 antibiotics showed that all were resistant to two or more antibiotics tested. Although all 28 strains contained plasmid, there was very little variation in the plasmid sizes observed. The most common plasmid of 60 MDa was detected in all strains. We used DNA fingerprinting by randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) to compare the 28 E. coli O157:H7 strains. At a similarity level of 90%, the results of PFGE after restriction with XbaI separated the E. coli O157:H7 strains into 28 single isolates, whereas RAPD using a single 10-mer oligonucleotides separated the E. coli O157:H7 strains into two clusters and 22 single isolates. These typing methods should aid in the epidemiological clarification of the E. coli O157:H7 in the study area.
Specific Escherichia coli isolates lysogenised with prophages that express Shiga toxin (Stx) can be a threat to human health, with cattle being an important natural reservoir. In many countries the most severe pathology is associated with enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) serogroups that express Stx subtype 2a. In the United Kingdom, phage type (PT) 21/28 O157 strains have emerged as the predominant cause of life-threatening EHEC infections and this phage type commonly encodes both Stx2a and Stx2c toxin types. PT21/28 is also epidemiologically linked to super-shedding (>103 cfu/g of faeces) which is significant for inter-animal transmission and human infection as demonstrated using modelling studies. We demonstrate that Stx2a is the main toxin produced by stx2a+/stx2c+ PT21/28 strains induced with mitomycin C and this is associated with more rapid induction of gene expression from the Stx2a-encoding prophage compared to that from the Stx2c-encoding prophage. Bacterial supernatants containing either Stx2a and/or Stx2c were demonstrated to restrict growth of bovine gastrointestinal organoids with no restriction when toxin production was not induced or prevented by mutation. Isogenic strains that differed in their capacity to produce Stx2a were selected for experimental oral colonisation of calves to assess the significance of Stx2a for both super-shedding and transmission between animals. Restoration of Stx2a expression in a PT21/28 background significantly increased animal-to-animal transmission and the number of sentinel animals that became super-shedders. We propose that while both Stx2a and Stx2c can restrict regeneration of the epithelium, it is the relatively rapid and higher levels of Stx2a induction, compared to Stx2c, that have contributed to the successful emergence of Stx2a+ E. coli isolates in cattle in the last 40 years. We propose a model in which Stx2a enhances E. coli O157 colonisation of in-contact animals by restricting regeneration and turnover of the colonised gastrointestinal epithelium.
Escherichia coli strains isolated from patients with diarrhea or hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) at Pusan University Hospital, South Korea, between 1990 and 1996 were examined for traits of the O157:H7 serogroup. One strain isolated from a patient with HUS belonged to the O157:H7 serotype, possessed a 60-MDa plasmid, the eae gene, and ability to produce Shiga toxin 1 but not Shiga toxin 2. Arbitrarily primed PCR analysis suggested that this strain is genetically very close to a O157:H7 strain isolated in Japan.