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Comparative virulence characterization of the Shiga toxin phage-cured Escherichia coli O104:H4 and enteroaggregative Escherichia coli



Comparative virulence characterization of the Shiga toxin phage-cured Escherichia coli O104:H4 and enteroaggregative Escherichia coli



International Journal of Medical Microbiology 308(7): 912-920



Escherichia coli O104:H4 (E. coli O104:H4), which caused in 2011 a massive foodborne outbreak in Germany, is characterized by an unusual combination of virulence traits. E. coli O104:H4 contains a prophage-encoded Shiga toxin (Stx) gene, which is the cardinal virulence factor of enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC). However, the outbreak strain shares highest DNA sequence similarity with enteroaggregative E. coli (EAEC) and displays the EAEC-characteristic tight adherence to epithelial cells. The virulence potential of the underlying EAEC background has not been investigated and it is therefore not clear whether E. coli O104:H4 displays distinct virulence characteristics in comparison to prototypical EAEC. In this study, we performed a detailed comparative phenotypic characterization of the Stx phage-cured E. coli O104:H4 strain C227-11φcu, the closely related EAEC strain 55989 and two other well-characterized EAEC strains 042 and 17-2 with focus on virulence traits. C227-11φcu displayed superior aggregative adherence phenotype to cultured HCT-8 epithelial cells, adhering with 3-6 times more bacteria per epithelial cells than the tested EAEC strains. Otherwise, C227-11φcu showed similar virulence characteristics to its closest relative 55989, i.e. strong acid resistance, good biofilm formation and cytotoxic culture supernatants. Furthermore, C227-11φcu was characterized by significantly weaker motility and pro-inflammatory properties than 55989 and 042, nevertheless stronger than 17-2. Taken together, C227-11φcu displayed mostly robust, but not outstanding virulence characteristics in comparison to the tested EAEC. Therefore, it appears likely that the combination of Stx production and EAEC characteristics in general, rather than an exceptionally potent EAEC background resulted in the unusual virulence of the E. coli O104:H4. Thus, the emergence of such hypervirulent strains in the future might be more likely than previously anticipated.

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Accession: 055500564

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 29941383

DOI: 10.1016/j.ijmm.2018.06.006


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