Epidemiology and Infection

Research Article

Virulence properties of Escherichia coli strains belonging to serogroups O26, O55, O111 and O128 isolated in the United Kingdom in 1991 from patients with diarrhoea

S. M. Scotlanda1, G. A. Willshawa1, H. R. Smitha1, B. Saida1, N. Stokesa1 and B. Rowea1

a1 Laboratory of Enteric Pathogens, Central Public Health Laboratory, 61 Colindale Avenue, London NW9 5HT


Some strains of Escherichia coli belonging to serogroups O26, O55, O111 or O128 produce Vero cytotoxin (VT). These serogroups are included in the range of enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC) serogroups for which commercial antisera are available. In an attempt to obtain information on VT-producing strains other than those of serogroup O157, 122 strains belonging to these four serogroups and isolated in 1991 from patients with diarrhoea in the United Kingdom were tested for hybridization with VT probes. Only 18 of the 122 strains were VT-positive and these were O26 or O128. However 90 strains hybridized with the E. coli attaching and effacing (eae) probe (including 14 VT-positive strains) and 17 with the enteroaggregative E. coli (EAggEC) probe. For 78 eae-positive and 9 EAggEC-positive strains, tissue culture tests correlated with the probe results as the strains gave, respectively, either localized adhesion and a positive fluorescent-actin staining test or a characteristic aggregative attachment. A total of 111 of the 122 strains belonging to serogroups O26, O55, O111 or O128 possessed properties that may be associated with the ability to cause human diarrhoeal disease, and similar studies are needed on strains from the other classical EPEC serogroups.

(Accepted June 07 1993)