The emerging importance of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli other than serogroup O157 in England

Bhavita Vishram, Claire Jenkins, David R Greig, Gauri Godbole, Kevin Carroll, Sooria Balasegaram, Lisa Byrne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction. Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) can cause severe disease and large outbreaks. In England, the incidence and clinical significance of STEC serogroups other than O157 (non-O157) is unknown due to a testing bias for detection of STEC O157. Since 2013, the implementation of PCR to detect all STEC serogroups by an increasing number of diagnostic laboratories has led to an increase in the detection of non-O157 STEC.Hypothesis/Gap statement. Due to a bias in testing methodologies to select for STEC serogroup O157 in frontline diagnostic laboratories in most countries, very little surveillance data have been previously generated on non-O157 STEC.Aim. Five years (2014-2018) of STEC national surveillance data were extracted and descriptive analysis undertaken to assess disease severity of non-O157 STEC strains.Methods. Data from 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2018 were extracted from the National Enhanced Surveillance System for STEC and analysed.Results. The implementation of Gastrointestinal Polymerase Chain Reaction (GI-PCR) has resulted in a four-fold increase in the detection of non-O157 STEC cases between 2014 and 2018. There were 2579 cases infected with 97 different non-O157 serogroups. The gender distribution was similar amongst STEC O157 and non-O157 STEC cases with 57 and 56 % of cases being female respectively, but a significantly higher proportion of cases (P <0.001) under 5 years of age was observed among STEC O157 (22 %) cases compared to non-O157 STEC (14 %). The most common non-O157 serogroups were O26 (16 %), O146 (11 %), O91 (10 %), O128 (7 %), O103 (5 %) and O117 (3 %). Overall, rates of bloody diarrhoea were highest in O26 (44 %) and O103 (48 %) cases and lowest in STEC O117 cases (17 %). Strains harbouring Shiga toxin stx1a caused the highest proportion of diarrhoea (93 %) and caused the same level of bloody diarrhoea as stx2a (39 %). However, stx2a caused the highest proportion of vomiting (46 %), hospitalisation (49 %) and considerably more HUS (29 %) than other stx profiles.Conclusion. The implementation of PCR targeting stx at diagnostic laboratories has shown that non-O157 STEC, most notably STEC O26, are an emerging risk to public health.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Medical Microbiology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jul 2021


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • England/epidemiology
  • Escherichia coli Infections/epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Molecular Diagnostic Techniques
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Serogroup
  • Sex Distribution
  • Shiga Toxin 1/genetics
  • Shiga Toxin 2/genetics
  • Shiga-Toxigenic Escherichia coli/classification
  • Virulence/genetics
  • Young Adult


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