Bovine feces from animals with gastrointestinal infections are a source of serologically diverse atypical enteropathogenic Escherichia coli and Shiga toxin-producing E. coli strains that commonly possess intimin
Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) and enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC) cells were isolated from 191 fecal samples from cattle with gastrointestinal infections (diagnostic samples) collected in New South Wales, Australia. By using a multiplex PCR, E. coli cells possessing combinations of stx1, stx2, eae, and ehxA were detected by a combination of direct culture and enrichment in E. coli (EC) (modified) broth followed by plating on vancomycin-cefixime-cefsulodin blood (BVCC) agar for the presence of enterohemolytic colonies and on sorbitol MacConkey agar for the presence of non-sorbitol-fermenting colonies. The high prevalence of the intimin gene eae was a feature of the STEC (35 [29.2%] of 120 isolates) and contrasted with the low prevalence (9 [0.5%] of 1,692 fecal samples possessed STEC with eae) of this gene among STEC recovered during extensive sampling of feces from healthy slaughter-age cattle in Australia (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). Forty-seven STEC serotypes were identified, including O5:H−, O8:H19, O26:H−, O26:H11, O113:H21, O157:H7, O157:H− and Ont:H− which are known to cause severe disease in humans and 23 previously unreported STEC serotypes. Serotypes Ont:H− and O113:H21 represented the two most frequently isolated STEC isolates and were cultured from nine (4.7%) and seven (3.7%) animals, respectively. Fifteen eae-positive E. coli serotypes, considered to represent atypical EPEC, were identified, with O111:H− representing the most prevalent. Using both techniques, STEC cells were cultured from 69 (36.1%) samples and EPEC cells were cultured from 30 (15.7%) samples, including 9 (4.7%) samples which yielded both STEC and EPEC. Culture on BVCC agar following enrichment in EC (modified) broth was the most successful method for the isolation of STEC (24.1% of samples), and direct culture on BVCC agar was the most successful method for the isolation of EPEC (14.1% samples). These studies show that diarrheagenic calves and cattle represent important reservoirs of eae-positive E. coli.