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Identification of Shigatoxigenic and Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli Serotypes in Healthy Young Dairy Calves in Belgium by Recto-Anal Mucosal Swabbing

  • Habets, Audrey1
  • Engelen, Frederik2
  • Duprez, Jean-Noël1
  • Devleesschauwer, Brecht
  • Heyndrickx, Marc3
  • De Zutter, Lieven
  • Thiry, Damien1
  • Cox, Eric2
  • Mainil, Jacques1
  • 1 (J.M.)
  • 2 (E.C.)
  • 3 Department of Pathology, Bacteriology and Poultry Diseases, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Salisburylaan 133, B-9820 Merelbeke, Belgium
Published Article
Veterinary Sciences
Publication Date
Oct 31, 2020
DOI: 10.3390/vetsci7040167
PMID: 33142734
PMCID: PMC7712179
PubMed Central


Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC), enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC), and Shigatoxigenic E. coli (STEC) are carried by healthy adult cattle and even more frequently by young calves in their intestinal tract, especially at the height of the recto-anal junction. The purpose of the present study was to assess the presence of ten EHEC, EPEC, and/or STEC O serotypes (O5, O26, O80, O103, O111, O118, O121, O145, O157, and O165) in calves sampled via recto-anal mucosal swabs (RAMS) at three dairy farms in Belgium. A total of 233 RAMS were collected on three consecutive occasions from healthy <6-month-old Holstein-Friesian calves and submitted to a PCR targeting the eae , stx1 , and stx2 genes after non-selective overnight enrichment growth. The 148 RAMS testing positive were streaked on four (semi-)selective agar media; of the 2146 colonies tested, 294 from 69 RAMS were PCR-confirmed as EHEC, EPEC, or STEC. The most frequent virulotype was eae + EPEC and the second one was stx1 + stx2 + STEC, while the eae + stx1 + and eae + stx1 + stx2 + virulotypes were the most frequent among EHEC. The majority of EHEC (73%) tested positive for one of the five O serotypes detected (O26, O103, O111, O145, or O157) vs. 23% of EPEC and 45% of STEC. Similarly, more RAMS (73%) harbored EHEC isolates positive for those five serotypes compared to EPEC (53%) or STEC (52%). This survey confirms that (i) healthy young dairy calves are asymptomatic carriers of EHEC and EPEC in Belgium; (ii) the carrier state rates, the virulotypes, and the identified O serotypes differ between farms and in time; and (iii) a majority of EPEC belong to so far unidentified O serotypes.

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