Highly Pathogenic Clone of Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli O157:H7, England and Wales.
ABSTRACT: We used whole-genome sequencing to investigate the evolutionary context of an emerging highly pathogenic strain of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157:H7 in England and Wales. A timed phylogeny of sublineage IIb revealed that the emerging clone evolved from a STEC O157:H7 stx-negative ancestor ?10 years ago after acquisition of a bacteriophage encoding Shiga toxin (stx) 2a, which in turn had evolved from a stx2c progenitor ?20 years ago. Infection with the stx2a clone was a significant risk factor for bloody diarrhea (OR 4.61, 95% CI 2.24-9.48; p<0.001), compared with infection with other strains within sublineage IIb. Clinical symptoms of cases infected with sublineage IIb stx2c and stx-negative clones were comparable, despite the loss of stx2c. Our analysis highlighted the highly dynamic nature of STEC O157:H7 Stx-encoding bacteriophages and revealed the evolutionary history of a highly pathogenic clone emerging within sublineage IIb, a sublineage not previously associated with severe clinical symptoms.
Project description:Signs and symptoms of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) serogroup O157:H7 infection range from mild gastrointestinal to bloody diarrhea and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). We assessed the association between Shiga toxin gene (stx) subtype and disease severity for »3,000 patients with STEC O157:H7 in England during 2009-2019. Odds of bloody diarrhea, HUS, or both, were significantly higher for patients infected with STEC O157:H7 possessing stx2a only or stx2a combined with other stx subtypes. Odds of severe signs/symptoms were significantly higher for isolates encoding stx2a only and belonging to sublineage Ic and lineage I/II than for those encoding stx2a only and belonging to sublineage IIb, indicating that stx2a is not the only driver causing HUS. Strains of STEC O157:H7 that had stx1a were also significantly more associated with severe disease than strains with stx2c only. This finding confounds public health risk assessment algorithms based on detection of stx2 as a predictor of severe disease.
Project description:Over the last 35?years in the UK, the burden of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157:H7 infection has, during different periods of time, been associated with five different sub-lineages (1983-1995, Ia, I/IIa and I/IIb; 1996-2014, Ic; and 2015-2018, IIb). The acquisition of a stx2a-encoding bacteriophage by these five sub-lineages appears to have coincided with their respective emergences. The Oxford Nanopore Technologies (ONT) system was used to sequence, characterize and compare the stx-encoding prophages harboured by each sub-lineage to investigate the integration of this key virulence factor. The stx2a-encoding prophages from each of the lineages causing clinical disease in the UK were all different, including the two UK sub-lineages (Ia and I/IIa) circulating concurrently and causing severe disease in the early 1980s. Comparisons between the stx2a-encoding prophage in sub-lineages I/IIb and IIb revealed similarity to the prophage commonly found to encode stx2c, and the same site of bacteriophage integration (sbcB) as stx2c-encoding prophage. These data suggest independent acquisition of previously unobserved stx2a-encoding phage is more likely to have contributed to the emergence of STEC O157:H7 sub-lineages in the UK than intra-UK lineage to lineage phage transmission. In contrast, the stx2c-encoding prophage showed a high level of similarity across lineages and time, consistent with the model of stx2c being present in the common ancestor to extant STEC O157:H7 and maintained by vertical inheritance in the majority of the population. Studying the nature of the stx-encoding bacteriophage contributes to our understanding of the emergence of highly pathogenic strains of STEC O157:H7.
Project description:Shiga toxin (Stx)-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157:H7 is an enteric pathogen that causes life-threatening disease in humans, with cattle being major natural reservoirs. A group of STEC O157:H7 with a dramatic combination of high virulence potentials and super-shedder bovine origin have been isolated. Here, an STEC O157:H7 isolate, JEONG-1266, was analyzed by comparative genomics, stx genotyping, and phenotypic analyses. The phylogenetic typing and whole-genome comparison consistently showed that JEONG-1266 is genetically close to EC4115 (one of 2006 Spinach outbreak isolates) and SS17 (an isolate from super-shedder cattle) strains, all of which belong to lineage I/II and Clade 8. Both lineage I/II and Clade 8 are known to be mostly associated with clinical strains with high virulence and severe clinical symptoms. Further, JEONG-1266, like EC4115 and SS17, harbors stx2a/stx2c genes, and carries Stx-encoding prophages, specifically the ?stx2a-? subtype. Possession of the ?stx2a-? subtype of Stx-encoding prophages and production of Stx2a have been shown to be a key signature associated with hypervirulent STEC O157:H7 strains. In silico virulence typing elucidated JEONG-1266, EC4115, and SS17 shared a highly conserved profile of key virulence genes at the nucleotide sequence level. Consistently, phenotypic data showed that JEONG-1266 expressed a high level of Stx2 toxins and had the full capacity of adhesion in vitro. Taken together, our study suggests that JEONG-1266 may represent an emerging STEC O157:H7 group, which are hypervirulent strains that originate from super-shedders, that can be a threat to food safety and public health.
Project description:The production of Shiga toxin (Stx) (verocytotoxin) is a major virulence factor of Escherichia coli O157:H7 strains (Shiga toxin-producing E. coli [STEC] O157). Two types of Shiga toxins, designated Stx1 and Stx2, are produced in STEC O157. Variants of the Stx2 type (Stx2, Stx2c) are associated with high virulences of these strains for humans. A bacteriophage designated 2851 from a human STEC O157 encoding the Stx2c variant was described previously. Nucleotide sequence analysis of the phage 2851 genome revealed 75 predicted coding sequences and indicated a mosaic structure typical for lambdoid phages. Analyses of free phages and K-12 phage 2851 lysogens revealed that upon excision from the bacterial chromosome, the loss of a phage-encoded IS629 element leads to fusion of phage antA and antB genes, with the generation of a recombined antAB gene encoding a strong antirepressor. In wild-type E. coli O157 as well as in K-12 strains, phage 2851 was found to be integrated in the sbcB locus. Additionally, phage 2851 carries an open reading frame which encodes an OspB-like type III effector similar to that found in Shigella spp. Investigation of 39 stx(2c) E. coli O157 strains revealed that all except 1 were positive for most phage 2851-specific genes and possessed a prophage with the same border sequences integrated into the sbcB locus. Phage 2851-specific sequences were absent from most stx(2c)-negative E. coli O157 strains, and we suggest that phage 2851-like phages contributed significantly to the dissemination of the Stx2c variant toxin within this group of E. coli.
Project description:Shiga toxin (Stx)-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) causes hemorrhagic colitis and the hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). STEC strains may produce Stx1a and/or Stx2a or variants of either toxin. A 2006 spinach-associated outbreak of STEC O157:H7 resulted in higher hospitalization and HUS rates than previous STEC outbreaks. The spinach isolate, strain K3995, contains both stx2a and stx2c. We hypothesized that the enhanced virulence of K3995 reflects the combination of stx2 alleles (carried on lysogenic phages) and/or the amount of Stx2 made by that strain. We compared the virulence of K3995 to those of other O157:H7 isolates and an isogenic Stx2 mutant in rabbits and mice. We also measured the relative levels of Stx2 produced from those strains with or without induction of the stx-carrying phage. Some rabbits infected with K3995 exhibited intestinal pathology and succumbed to infection, while none of those infected with O157:H7 strain 2812 (Stx1a(+) Stx2a(+)) died or showed pathological signs. Rabbits infected with the isogenic Stx2a mutant K3995 stx2a::cat were not colonized as well as those infected with K3995 and exhibited no signs of disease. In the streptomycin-treated mouse model, more animals infected with K3995 died than did those infected with O157:H7 strain 86-24 (Stx2a(+)). Additionally, K3995 produced higher levels of total Stx2 and toxin phage DNA in cultures after phage induction than did 86-24. Our results demonstrate the greater virulence of K3995 compared to other O157:H7 strains in rabbits and mice. We conclude that this enhanced virulence is linked to higher levels of Stx2 expression as a consequence of increased phage induction.
Project description:In December 2015, six cases of Shiga toxin (Stx)-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157:H7 stx2a/stx2c phage type (PT) 24 were identified by the national gastrointestinal disease surveillance system at Public Health England (PHE). Frozen grated coconut imported from India was implicated as the vehicle of infection. Short and long read sequencing data were interrogated for genomic markers to provide evidence that the outbreak strain was from an imported source. The outbreak strain belonged to a sub-lineage (IIa) rare in domestically acquired infection in the United Kingdom, and indicative of an imported strain. Phylogenetic analysis identified the most closely related isolates to the outbreak strain were from cases reporting recent travel not to India, but to Uganda. Phylo-geographical signals based on travel data may be confounded by the failure of local and/or global monitoring systems to capture the full diversity of strains in a given country. This may be due to low prevalence strains circulating in-country under the surveillance radar, or a recent importation event involving the migration of animals and/or people. Comparison of stx2a-encoding prophage harbored by the outbreak strain with publicly available stx2a-encoding prophage sequences revealed that it was most closely related to stx2a-encoding prophage acquired by STEC O157:H7 that caused the first outbreak of STEC-hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) in England in 1982-83. Animal and people migration events may facilitate the transfer of stx2a-encoding prophage from indigenous STEC O157:H7 to recently imported strains, or vice versa. Monitoring the global transmission of STEC O157:H7 and tracking the exchange of stx2a-encoding phage between imported and indigenous strains may provide an early warning of emerging threats to public health.
Project description:The toxigenic conversion of Escherichia coli strains by Shiga toxin-converting (Stx) bacteriophages were prominent and recurring events in the stepwise evolution of enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) O157:H7 from an enteropathogenic (EPEC) O55:H7 ancestor. Atypical, attenuated isolates have been described for both non-sorbitol fermenting (NSF) O157:H7 and SF O157:NM serotypes, which are distinguished by the absence of Stx, the characteristic virulence hallmark of Stx-producing E. coli (STEC). Such atypical isolates either never acquired Stx-phages or may have secondarily lost stx during the course of infection, isolation, or routine subculture; the latter are commonly referred to as LST (Lost Shiga Toxin)-isolates. In this study we analyzed the genomes of 15 NSF O157:H7 and SF O157:NM strains from North America, Europe, and Asia that are characterized by the absence of stx, the virulence hallmark of STEC. The individual genomic basis of the Stx (-) phenotype has remained largely undetermined as the majority of STEC genomes in public genome repositories were generated using short read technology and are in draft stage, posing a major obstacle for the high-resolution whole genome sequence typing (WGST). The application of LRT (long-read technology) sequencing provided us with closed genomes, which proved critical to put the atypical non-shigatoxigenic NSF O157:H7 and SF O157:NM strains into the phylogenomic context of the stepwise evolutionary model. Availability of closed chromosomes for representative Stx (-) NSF O157:H7 and SF O157:NM strains allowed to describe the genomic basis and individual evolutionary trajectories underlying the absence of Stx at high accuracy and resolution. The ability of LRT to recover and accurately assemble plasmids revealed a strong correlation between the strains' featured plasmid genotype and chromosomally inferred clade, which suggests the coevolution of the chromosome and accessory plasmids. The identified ancestral traits in the pSFO157 plasmid of NSF O157:H7 strain LSU-61 provided additional evidence for its intermediate status. Taken together, these observations highlight the utility of LRTs for advancing our understanding of EHEC O157:H7/NM pathogenome evolution. Insights into the genomic and phenotypic plasticity of STEC on a lineage- and genome-wide scale are foundational to improve and inform risk assessment, biosurveillance, and prevention strategies.
Project description:Escherichia coli O157:H7 is a human pathogen that resides asymptomatically in its bovine host. The level of Shiga toxin (Stx) produced is variable in bovine-derived strains in contrast to human isolates that mostly produce high levels of Stx. To understand the genetic basis for varied Stx production, chronological collections of bovine isolates from Wisconsin dairy farms, R and X, were analyzed for multilocus prophage polymorphisms, stx(2) subtypes, and the levels of stx(2) transcript and toxin. The E. coli O157:H7 that persisted on both farms were phylogenetically distinct and yet produced little to no Stx2 due to gene deletions in Stx2c-encoding prophage (farm R) or insertional inactivation of stx(2a) by IS1203v (farm X). Loss of key regulatory and lysis genes in Stx2c-encoding prophage abolished stx(2c) transcription and induction of the prophage and stx(2a)::IS1203v in Stx2a-encoding prophage generated a truncated stx(2a) mRNA without affecting phage production. Stx2-producing strains were transiently present (farm R) and became Stx2 negative on farm X (i.e., stx(2a)::IS1203v). To our knowledge, this is the first study that details the evolution of E. coli O157:H7 and its Stx2-encoding prophage in a chronological collection of natural isolates. The data suggest the bovine and farm environments can be niches where Stx2-negative E. coli O157:H7 emerge and persist, which explains the Stx variability in bovine isolates and may be part of an evolutionary step toward becoming bovine specialists.
Project description:We have analyzed the prevalence of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) in stool specimens of patients with diarrhea or other gastrointestinal alterations from the Xeral-Calde Hospital of Lugo City (Spain). STEC strains were detected in 126 (2.5%) of 5,054 cases investigated, with a progressive increase in the incidence from 0% in 1992 to 4.4% in 1999. STEC O157:H7 was isolated in 24 cases (0.5%), whereas non-O157 STEC strains were isolated from 87 patients (1.7%). STEC strains were (after Salmonella and Campylobacter strains) the third most frequently recovered enteropathogenic bacteria. A total of 126 human STEC isolates were characterized in this study. PCR showed that 43 (34%) isolates carried stx(1) genes, 45 (36%) possessed stx(2) genes and 38 (30%) carried both stx(1) and stx(2). A total of 88 (70%) isolates carried an ehxA enterohemolysin gene, and 70 (56%) isolates possessed an eae intimin gene (27 isolates with type gamma1, 20 with type beta1, 8 with type zeta, 5 with type gamma2, and 3 with type epsilon). STEC isolates belonged to 41 O serogroups and 66 O:H serotypes, including 21 serotypes associated with hemolytic uremic syndrome and 30 new serotypes not previously reported among human STEC strains in other studies. Although the 126 STEC isolates belonged to 81 different seropathotypes (associations between serotypes and virulence genes), only four accounted for 31% of isolates. Seropathotype O157:H7 stx(1) stx(2) eae-gamma1 ehxA was the most common (13 isolates) followed by O157:H7 stx(2) eae-gamma1 ehxA (11 isolates), O26:H11 stx(1) eae-beta1 ehxA (11 isolates), and O111:H- stx(1) stx(2) eae-gamma2 ehxA (4 isolates). Our results suggest that STEC strains are a significant cause of human infections in Spain and confirm that in continental Europe, infections caused by STEC non-O157 strains are more common than those caused by O157:H7 isolates. The high prevalence of STEC strains (both O157:H7 and non-O157 strains) in human patients, and their association with serious complications, strongly supports the utilization of protocols for detection of all serotypes of STEC in Spanish clinical microbiology laboratories.
Project description:The ability of Escherichia coli O157:H7 to induce cellular damage leading to disease in humans is related to numerous virulence factors, most notably the stx gene, encoding Shiga toxin (Stx) and carried by a bacteriophage. Loss of the Stx-encoding bacteriophage may occur during infection or culturing of the strain. Here, we collected stx-positive and stx-negative variants of E. coli O157:H7/NM (nonmotile) isolates from patients with gastrointestinal complaints. Isolates were characterized by whole-genome sequencing (WGS), and their virulence properties and phylogenetic relationship were determined. Because of the presence of the eae gene but lack of the bfpA gene, the stx-negative isolates were considered atypical enteropathogenic E. coli (aEPEC). However, they had phenotypic characteristics similar to those of the Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) isolates and belonged to the same sequence type, ST11. Furthermore, EPEC and STEC isolates shared similar virulence genes, the locus of enterocyte effacement region, and plasmids. Core genome phylogenetic analysis using a gene-by-gene typing approach showed that the sorbitol-fermenting (SF) stx-negative isolates clustered together with an SF STEC isolate and that one non-sorbitol-fermenting (NSF) stx-negative isolate clustered together with NSF STEC isolates. Therefore, these stx-negative isolates were thought either to have lost the Stx phage or to be a progenitor of STEC O157:H7/NM. As detection of STEC infections is often based solely on the identification of the presence of stx genes, these may be misdiagnosed in routine laboratories. Therefore, an improved diagnostic approach is required to manage identification, strategies for treatment, and prevention of transmission of these potentially pathogenic strains.