Medical Microbiology and Immunology

, Volume 183, Issue 1, pp 23–31 | Cite as

Differentiation in virulence patterns of Escherichia coli possessing eae genes

  • Herbert Schmidt
  • Barbara Plaschke
  • Sylvia Franke
  • Holger Rüssmann
  • Andreas Schwarzkopf
  • Jürgen Heesemann
  • Helge Karch
Original Investigations


In this study 98 Escherichia coli strains which belonged to traditional enteropathogenic (EPEC) serotypes and 82 enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) strains were screened by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for the presence of E. coli -attaching and -effacing (eae) genes. These strains were also hybridized with the enteropathogenic adherence factor (EAF) probe and examined in the fluorescence actin staining (FAS) test. The results obtained from the individual strains demonstrated that all 26 class I EPEC with localized adherence to HEp-2 cells carried EAF and eae genes. In contrast, of 72 EPEC strains with no or diffuse adherence only 1 strain was EAF positive and 6 strains had eae. Of 82 EHEC strains a total of 75 carried eae sequences. Of considerable interest, 15 of 21 E. coli strains that lost their slt genes during subcultivation were found to be eae positive. As controls a total of 53 enterotoxigenic and enteroinvasive E. coli, and 125 E. coli strains from the normal flora were investigated and all displayed negative results in the eae-PCR. From the 201 strains comprising classical EPEC serotypes, EHEC and E. coli with lost slt genes, a total of 126 displayed a positive FAS test and 122 reacted in the eae-PCR. Only 4 strains were FAS test positive but eae-PCR negative. Our data indicate that E. coli strains possessing the eae genes are heterogenous with respect to their virulence determinants. Loss of virulence plasmids and phage-encoded slt genes either in the host or during storage may contribute to this heterogeneity. The eae-PCR detected all class I EPEC and 91.5% of the EHEC. For diagnostic purposes we, therefore, recommend the combination of eae- and slt-specific gene probes which allowed a 100% detection of the class I EPEC and EHEC strains investigated here.


Polymerase Chain Reaction Gene Probe Diagnostic Purpose Virulence Determinant Individual Strain 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Herbert Schmidt
    • 1
  • Barbara Plaschke
    • 1
  • Sylvia Franke
    • 1
  • Holger Rüssmann
    • 1
  • Andreas Schwarzkopf
    • 1
  • Jürgen Heesemann
    • 1
  • Helge Karch
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für Hygiene und Mikrobiologie der Universität WürzburgWürzburgGermany

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