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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Characterization of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli isolated from healthy pigs in China

Qiong Meng12, Xiangning Bai1, Ailan Zhao1, Ruiting Lan3, Huamao Du4, Tao Wang5, Changyou Shi6, Xuejiao Yuan1, Xuemei Bai1, Shaobo Ji1, Dong Jin1, Bo Yu1, Yan Wang1, Hui Sun1, Kai Liu1, Jianguo Xu12 and Yanwen Xiong12*

Author Affiliations

1 State Key Laboratory for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control, National Institute for Communicable Disease Control and Prevention, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Changping, Beijing, China

2 Collaborative Innovation Center for Diagnosis and Treatment of Infectious Diseases, Hangzhou, China

3 School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia

4 Biochemical and Molecular Biological Department, School of Biotechnology, Southwest University, Chongqing, China

5 Department of Microbiology, School of Basic Medical Sciences, Guiyang Medical University, Guiyang, China

6 Animal Nutrition Institute, Sichuan Agricultural University, Chengdu, China

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BMC Microbiology 2014, 14:5  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-14-5

Published: 6 January 2014



Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) is recognized as an important human diarrheal pathogen. Swine plays an important role as a carrier of this pathogen. In this study we determined the prevalence and characteristics of STEC from healthy swine collected between May 2011 and August 2012 from 3 cities/provinces in China.


A total of 1003 samples, including 326 fecal, 351 small intestinal contents and 326 colon contents samples, was analyzed. Two hundred and fifty five samples were stx-positive by PCR and 93 STEC isolates were recovered from 62 stx-positive samples. Twelve O serogroups and 19 O:H serotypes including 6 serotypes (O100:H20/[H20], O143:H38/[H38], O87:H10, O172:H30/[H30], O159:H16, O9:H30/[H30]) rarely found in swine and ruminants were identified. All 93 STEC isolates harbored stx2 only, all of which were stx2e subtype including 1 isolate being a new variant of stx2e. 53.76%, 15.05% and 2.15% STEC isolates carried astA, hlyA and ehxA respectively. Four STEC isolates harbored the high-pathogenicity island. Of the 15 adherence-associated genes tested, 13 (eae, efa1, iha, lpfAO113, lpfAO157/OI-154, lpfAO157/OI-141, toxB, saa, F4, F5, F6, F17 or F41) were all absent while 2 (paa and F18) were present in 7 and 4 STEC isolates respectively. The majority of the isolates were resistant to tetracycline (79.57%), nalidixic acid (78.49%), trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (73.12%) and kanamycin (55.91%). The STEC isolates were divided into 63 pulsed-field gel electrophoresis patterns and 21 sequence types (STs). Isolates of the same STs generally showed the same or similar drug resistance patterns. A higher proportion of STEC isolates from Chongqing showed multidrug resistance with one ST (ST3628) resistant to 14 antimicrobials.


Our results indicate that swine is a significant reservoir of STEC strains in China. Based on comparison by serotypes and sequence types with human strains and presence of virulence genes, the swine STEC may have a low potential to cause human disease.

Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC); Shiga toxin; Multilocus sequence typing; Adhesin genes; Putative virulence genes; Antibiotic resistance; Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis; Swine