Escherichia coli O157:H7 and O157:H(-) strains that do not produce Shiga toxin: phenotypic and genetic characterization of isolates associated with diarrhea and hemolytic-uremic syndrome.
ABSTRACT: We have isolated one sorbitol-nonfermenting (SNF) Escherichia coli O157:H7 isolate and five sorbitol-fermenting (SF) E. coli O157:H(-) isolates that do not contain Shiga toxin (Stx) genes (stx). Isolates originated from patients with diarrhea (n = 4) and hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS) (n = 2). All isolates harbored a chromosomal eae gene encoding gamma-intimin as well as the plasmid genes E-hly and etp. The E. coli O157:H7 isolate was katP and espP positive. Respective sera obtained from the patient with HUS contained antibodies to the O157 lipopolysaccharide antigen. The stx-negative E. coli O157:H7 isolate is genetically related to stx-positive SNF E. coli O157:H7. All stx-negative SF E. coli O157:H(-) isolates belong to the same genetic cluster and are closely related to stx-positive SF E. coli O157:H(-) isolates. Our data indicate that stx-negative E. coli O157:H7/H(-) variants may occur at a low frequency and cannot be recognized by diagnostic methods that target Stx.
Project description:Alongside the well-characterized enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) O157:H7, serogroup O157 comprises sorbitol-fermenting typical and atypical enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC/aEPEC) strains that carry the intimin-encoding gene eae but not Shiga toxin-encoding genes (stx). Since little is known about these pathogens, we characterized 30 clinical isolates from patients with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) or uncomplicated diarrhea with respect to their flagellin gene (fliC) type and multilocus sequence type (MLST). Moreover, we applied whole-genome sequencing (WGS) to determine the phylogenetic relationship with other eae-positive EHEC serotypes and the composition of the rfbO157 region. fliC typing resulted in five fliC types (H7, H16, H34, H39, and H45). Isolates of each fliC type shared a unique ST. In comparison to the 42 HUS-associated E. coli (HUSEC) strains, only the stx-negative isolates with fliCH7 shared their ST with EHEC O157:H7/H(-) strains. With the exception of one O157:H(-) fliCH16 isolate, HUS was exclusively associated with fliCH7. WGS corroborated the separation of the fliCH7 isolates, which were closely related to the EHEC O157:H7/H(-) isolates, and the diverse group of isolates exhibiting different fliC types, indicating independent evolution of the different serotypes. This was also supported by the heterogeneity within the rfbO157 region that exhibited extensive recombinations. The genotypic subtypes and distribution of clinical symptoms suggested that the stx-negative O157 strains with fliCH7 were originally EHEC strains that lost stx The remaining isolates form a distinct and diverse group of atypical EPEC isolates that do not possess the full spectrum of virulence genes, underlining the importance of identifying the H antigen for clinical risk assessment.
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.
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 the predominant cause of diarrhea-associated hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) worldwide. Its cardinal virulence traits are Shiga toxins, which are encoded by stx genes, the most common of which are stx1a, stx2a, and stx2c. The toxins these genes encode differ in their in vitro and experimental phenotypes, but the human population-level impact of these differences is poorly understood. Using Shiga toxin-encoding bacteriophage insertion typing and real-time polymerase chain reaction, we genotyped isolates from 936 E. coli O157:H7 cases and verified HUS status via chart review. We compared the HUS risk between isolates with stx2a and those with stx2a and another gene and estimated additive interaction of the stx genes. Adjusted for age and symptoms, the HUS incidence of E. coli O157:H7 containing stx2a alone was 4.4% greater (95% confidence interval (CI) -0.3%, 9.1%) than when it occurred with stx1a. When stx1a and stx2a occur together, the risk of HUS was 27.1% lower (95% CI -87.8%, -2.3%) than would be expected if interaction were not present. At the population level, temporal or geographic shifts toward these genotypes should be monitored, and stx genotype may be an important consideration in clinically predicting HUS among E. coli O157:H7 cases.
Project description:The plasmid-borne sfpA gene encodes the pilin subunit in sorbitol-fermenting (SF) enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) O157:H-. We investigated the distribution of sfpA among 600 E. coli isolates comprising the complete E. coli standard reference (ECOR) and diarrheagenic E. coli (DEC) strain collections and clinical isolates associated with enteric disease. sfpA was detected in DEC3F SF EHEC O157:H- strain 493/89, each of 107 SF EHEC O157:H- clinical isolates, and 14 Shiga toxin-negative SF E. coli O157:H- strains which contained eae, which encodes gamma-intimin, and fliC, which encodes the H7 antigen. sfpA was absent from all other strains, including the ECOR strain collection, all non-SF EHEC O157:H7 strains, and all E. coli O55:H7 strains (E. coli O55:H7 is the postulated ancestor of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli [STEC] O157). These results suggest that there was a single acquisition of the sfpA gene in the nonmotile SF E. coli O157 branch, presumably after the eae-encoding pathogenicity island (the locus of enterocyte effacement) was acquired and motility was lost. We then applied the sfpA PCR in combination with rfbO157, stx, and eae PCRs to screen 636 stool samples from patients with diarrhea or hemolytic-uremic syndrome for SF STEC O157:H-. In 27 cases, the simultaneous presence of the sfpA, eae, and rfbO157 amplicons indicated the presence of SF E. coli O157:H- strains, and the result was subsequently confirmed by isolation. All but two of these strains possessed stx2. None of the other stool samples was positive by the sfpA PCR; 59 of these stool samples contained EHEC O157:H7. The sfpA gene can be recommended as a target for screening for SF E. coli O157:H-.
Project description:In addition to causing diarrhea, Escherichia coli O157:H7 infection can lead to hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), a severe disease characterized by hemolysis and renal failure. Differences in HUS frequency among E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks have been noted, but our understanding of bacterial factors that promote HUS is incomplete. In 2006, in an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 caused by consumption of contaminated spinach, there was a notably high frequency of HUS. We sequenced the genome of the strain responsible (TW14359) with the goal of identifying candidate genetic factors that contribute to an enhanced ability to cause HUS. The TW14359 genome contains 70 kb of DNA segments not present in either of the two reference O157:H7 genomes. We identified seven putative virulence determinants, including two putative type III secretion system effector proteins, candidate genes that could result in increased pathogenicity or, alternatively, adaptation to plants, and an intact anaerobic nitric oxide reductase gene, norV. We surveyed 100 O157:H7 isolates for the presence of these putative virulence determinants. A norV deletion was found in over one-half of the strains surveyed and correlated strikingly with the absence of stx(1). The other putative virulence factors were found in 8 to 35% of the O157:H7 isolates surveyed, and their presence also correlated with the presence of norV and the absence of stx(1), indicating that the presence of norV may serve as a marker of a greater propensity for HUS, similar to the correlation between the absence of stx(1) and a propensity for HUS.
Project description:Non-sorbitol-fermenting (NSF) Escherichia coli O157:H7 is the primary Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) serotype associated with human infection. Since 1988, sorbitol-fermenting (SF) STEC O157:NM strains have emerged and have been associated with a higher incidence of progression to hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS) than NSF STEC O157:H7. This study investigated bacterial factors that may account for the increased pathogenic potential of SF STEC O157:NM. While no evidence of toxin or toxin expression differences between the two O157 groups was found, the SF STEC O157:NM strains adhered at significantly higher levels to a human colonic cell line. Under the conditions tested, curli were shown to be the main factor responsible for the increased adherence to Caco-2 cells. Notably, 52 of 66 (79%) European SF STEC O157:NM strains tested bound Congo red at 37 degrees C and this correlated with curli expression. In a subset of strains, curli expression was due to increased expression from the csgBAC promoter that was not always a consequence of increased csgD expression. The capacity of SF STEC O157:NM strains to express curli at 37 degrees C may have relevance to the epidemiology of human infections as curliated strains could promote higher levels of colonization and inflammation in the human intestine. In turn, this could lead to increased toxin exposure and an increased likelihood of progression to HUS.
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:Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) O157 strains belong to two closely related major groups, which are differentiated by their sorbitol fermentation phenotypes. Here we studied the conservation of urease genes and their expression in sorbitol-fermenting (SF) and non-SF EHEC O157 isolates. PCR targeting ure genes (ureA, -B, -C, -D, -E, -F, and -G) demonstrated that each of these genes was present in 58 of 59 EHEC O157:H7 isolates. In contrast, none of 82 SF EHEC O157:NM (nonmotile) isolates contained any of the ure genes. Hence, the absence of the urease genes distinguishes SF EHEC O157:NM strains from EHEC O157:H7, but this absence demonstrates that the urease genes are not useful genetic targets for the detection of EHEC strains, because SF EHEC O157:NM strains are missed by such a strategy. When examined for urease activity on Christensen agar and in the API 20E system, only one O157:H7 strain displayed urease activity and produced elevated levels of ammonia, which was subsequently confirmed by ammonia electrode measurement. Because the ure genes were absent from each of nine strains of E. coli O55:H7, the proposed progenitor of EHEC O157, we hypothesize that EHEC O157:H7 diverged from the evolutionary pathway at an early stage and then acquired the O islands carrying the ure gene cluster.
Project description:In April and May 2011, there was a serious food-poisoning outbreak in Japan caused by enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) strains O111:H8 and O157:H7 from raw beef dishes at branches of a barbecue restaurant. This outbreak involved 181 infected patients, including 34 hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS) cases (19%). Among the 34 HUS patients, 21 developed acute encephalopathy (AE) and 5 died. Patient stool specimens yielded E. coli O111 and O157 strains. We also detected both EHEC O111 stx2 and stx-negative E. coli O111 strains in a stock of meat block from the restaurant. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and multilocus variable-number tandem-repeat analysis (MLVA) showed that the stx-negative E. coli O111 isolates were closely related to EHEC O111 stx2 isolates. Although the EHEC O157 strains had diverse stx gene profiles (stx1, stx2, and stx1 stx2), the PFGE and MLVA analyses indicated that these isolates originated from a single clone. Deletion of the Stx2-converting prophage from the EHEC O111 stx2 isolates was frequently observed during in vitro growth, suggesting that strain conversion from an EHEC O111 stx2 to an stx-negative strain may have occurred during infection.