Phylogenetic context of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli serotype O26:H11 in England

Timothy J Dallman, David R Greig, Saheer E Gharbia, Claire Jenkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The increasing use of PCR for the detection of gastrointestinal pathogens in hospital laboratories in England has improved the detection of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), and the diagnosis of haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS). We aimed to analyse the microbiological characteristics and phylogenetic relationships of STEC O26:H11, clonal complex (CC) 29, in England to inform surveillance, and to assess the threat to public health. There were 502 STEC belonging to CC29 isolated between 2014 and 2019, of which 416 were from individual cases. The majority of isolates belonged to one of three major sequence types (STs), ST16 (n=37), ST21 (n=350) and ST29 (n=24). ST16 and ST29 were mainly isolated from cases reporting recent travel abroad. Within ST21, there were three main clades associated with domestic acquisition. All three domestic clades had Shiga toxin subtype gene (stx) profiles associated with causing severe clinical outcomes including STEC-HUS, specifically either stx1a, stx2a or stx1a/stx2a. Isolates from the same patient, same household or same outbreak with an established source for the most part fell within 5-SNP single linkage clusters. There were 19 5-SNP community clusters, of which six were travel-associated and one was an outbreak of 16 cases caused by the consumption of contaminated salad leaves. Of the remaining 12 clusters, 9/12 were either temporally or geographically related or both. Exposure to foodborne STEC O26:H11 ST21 capable of causing severe clinical outcomes, including STEC-HUS, is an emerging risk to public health in England. The lack of comprehensive surveillance of this STEC serotype is a concern, and there is a need to expand the implementation of methods capable of detecting STEC in local hospital settings.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMicrobial Genomics
Early online date24 Mar 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Mar 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • foodborne outbreaks
  • public health
  • Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coliO26:H11
  • surveillance
  • whole genome sequencing


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