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Characterization of Monkey Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) and Human Typical and Atypical EPEC Serotype Isolates from Neotropical Nonhuman Primates

American Society for Microbiology
Publication Date
  • Epidemiology
  • Design
  • Medicine


Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) has been associated with infantile diarrhea and mortality in humans in developing countries. While diarrhea is also a major problem among primates kept in captivity, the role of E. coli is unclear. This study was designed to characterize diarrheagenic E. coli recovered from the feces of 56 New World nonhuman primates, primarily marmosets (Callithrix spp.). Seventeen of the 56 primates had signs of diarrhea and/or enteritis. E. coli recovered from feces from these animals was tested by PCR for genes encoding virulence factors of diarrheagenic E. coli and for patterns of adherence to HeLa cells. In addition, isolates were characterized by the fluorescence actin staining test and by their ability to induce attaching and effacing lesions. PCR for the eae gene was positive in 10 of the 39 (27%) apparently healthy animals and in 8 of the 17 (47%) animals with diarrhea and/or enteritis. Colonies of eae+ E. coli were serotyped and examined by PCR for genes encoding EPEC virulence markers. The eae+ E. coli isolates recovered from both healthy and sick nonhuman primates demonstrated virulence-associated attributes similar to those of EPEC strains implicated in human disease and are designated monkey EPEC. The results presented here indicate that EPEC may be a significant pathogen for nonhuman primates, deserving further investigation. The similarities between the affected animals investigated in this study and human EPEC infections suggest that marmosets may represent an important model for EPEC in humans.

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