Serotypes and virulence gene profiles of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli strains isolated from feces of Pasture-Fed and Lot-Fed Sheep

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Journal Article
Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2004, 70 (7), pp. 3910 - 3917
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Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains possessing genes for enterohemolysin (ehxA) and/or intimin (eae), referred to here as complex STEC (cSTEC), are more commonly recovered from the feces of humans with hemolytic uremic syndrome and hemorrhagic colitis than STEC strains that do not possess these accessory virulence genes. Ruminants, particularly cattle and sheep, are recognized reservoirs of STEC populations that may contaminate foods destined for human consumption. We isolated cSTEC strains from the feces of longitudinally sampled pasture-fed sheep, lot-fed sheep maintained on diets comprising various combinations of silage and grain, and sheep simultaneously grazing pastures with cattle to explore the diversity of cSTEC serotypes capable of colonizing healthy sheep. A total of 67 cSTEC serotypes were isolated, of which 21 (31.3%), mainly isolated from lambs, have not been reported. Of the total isolations, 58 (86.6%) were different from cSTEC serotypes isolated from a recent study of longitudinally sampled healthy Australian cattle (M. Hornitzky, B. A. Vanselow, K. Walker, K. A. Bettelheim, B. Corney, P. Gill, G. Bailey, and S. P. Djordjevic, Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 68:6439-6445, 2002). Our data suggest that cSTEC serotypes O5:H, O75:H8, O91:H, O123:H, and O128:H2 are well adapted to colonizing the ovine gastrointestinal tract, since they were the most prevalent serotypes isolated from both pasture-fed and lot-fed sheep. Collectively, our data show that Australian sheep are colonized by diverse cSTEC serotypes that are rarely isolated from healthy Australian cattle.
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