Bacterial genome plasticity can lead to the emergence of new pathogenic E. coli strains with novel combinations of virulence factors. An example of this is the 2011 European diarrheal outbreak E. coli strain O104:H4 which exhibited virulence factors from (enteroaggregative E. coli or) EAEC and (enterohemorrhagic E. coli or) EHEC, leading to an improved ability to cause severe disease. We analyzed 450 E. coli isolates recovered from Canadian retail meat and abattoir samples for genes and proteins associated with potentially pathogenic EPEC. We found that 4.0% (18/450) of tested strains were atypical EPEC (aEPEC), primarily isolated from chicken and pork sources. These aEPEC exhibited combinations of virulence genes from other E. coli pathotypes (enterotoxigenic and extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli or ETEC and ExPEC). The results of this study indicate that chicken and pork may be reservoirs for aEPEC. Examination of clinical isolates from patients with diarrheal disease of unknown etiology may provide further insight into the ability of aEPEC to cause disease in humans.
Amee Manges, MPH, PhD
Dr. Manges is recently arrived SPPH faculty member from McGill University. She is an infectious disease epidemiologist and heads a research laboratory at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. She trained at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health for her PhD and post-doctoral fellowship.
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