Application of a real-time PCR-based system for monitoring of O26, O103, O111, O145 and O157 Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli in cattle at slaughter.

Research paper by E E Hofer, R R Stephan, M M Reist, C C Zweifel

Indexed on: 22 Feb '12Published on: 22 Feb '12Published in: Zoonoses and Public Health


Faecal samples were collected from 573 slaughtered cattle aged between three and 24 months in seven abattoirs. After enrichment (mTSB with novobiocin), samples were screened by real-time PCR first for stx and if positive, tested for the top-five Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) serogroups using PCR assays targeting genes specific for serogroups O26, O103, O111, O145 and O157. Of 563 samples with available results, 74.1% tested positive for stx genes. Amongst them, the serogroups O145, O103, O26, O157 and O111 were detected in 41.9%, 25.9%, 23.9%, 7.8% and 0.8%, respectively. From 95 O26, 166 O145 and 30 O157 PCR-positive samples, 17 O26, 28 O145 and 12 O157 strains were isolated by colony hybridization after immunomagnetic separation. The 17 O26 strains were eae-positive, but only nine strains harboured stx (eight possessing stx1 and one stx2). Of the 28 O145 strains, ten were eae-positive including four harbouring stx1 or stx2, whereas 18 were negative for stx and eae. Five of the 12 O157 strains harboured stx2 and eae, did not ferment sorbitol, and were identified as STEC O157:H7/H⁻. The other seven O157 strains were negative for stx and eae or positive only for eae. Shiga toxin genes and the top-five STEC serogroups were frequently found in young Swiss cattle at slaughter, but success rates for strain isolation were low and only few strains showed a virulence pattern of human pathogenic STEC.