Class 1 integrons play a role in the emergence of multi-resistant bacteria by facilitating the recruitment of gene cassettes encoding antibiotic resistance genes. 512 E. coli strains sourced from humans (n = 202), animals (n = 304) and the environment (n = 6) were screened for the presence of the intI1 gene. In 31/79 integron positive E. coli strains, the gene cassette regions could not be PCR amplified using standard primers. DNA sequence analysis of 6 serologically diverse strains revealed atypical integrons harboured the dfrA5 cassette gene and only 24 bp of the integron 3'-conserved segment (CS) remained, due to the insertion of IS26. PCR targeting intI1 and IS26 followed by restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis identified the integron-dfrA5-IS26 element in 27 E. coli strains of bovine origin and 4 strains of human origin. Southern hybridization and transformation studies revealed the integron-dfrA5-IS26 gene arrangement was either chromosomally located or plasmid borne. Plasmid location in 4/9 E. coli strains and PCR linkage of Tn21 transposition genes with the intI1 gene in 20/31 strains, suggests this element is readily disseminated by horizontal transfer.