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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Investigation of an Escherichia coli O145 outbreak in a child day-care centre - extensive sampling and characterization of eae- and stx 1-positive E. coli yields epidemiological and socioeconomic insight

Erik Wahl1*, Line Vold2, Bjørn A Lindstedt2, Torkjel Bruheim3 and Jan E Afset45

Author Affiliations

1 District Office Trondheim and Orkdal, Norwegian Food Safety Authority, PO Box 383, N-2381 Brumunddal, Norway

2 Department of Infectious Disease Control, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, PO Box 4404, Nydalen, N-0403 Oslo, Norway

3 National Veterinary Institute, PO Box 5695 Sluppen, N-7485 Trondheim, Norway

4 Department of Medical Microbiology, Laboratory centre, St Olavs University Hospital, N-7006 Trondheim, Norway

5 Department of Medical Microbiology, St Olavs University Hospital, N-7006 Trondheim, Norway

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2011, 11:238  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-11-238

Published: 8 September 2011

Abstract

Background

On October 29th 2009 the health authorities in the city of Trondheim, Norway were alerted about a case of Shiga toxin-positive E. coli (STEC) O145 in a child with bloody diarrhoea attending a day-care centre. Symptomatic children in this day-care centre were sampled, thereby identifying three more cases. This initiated an outbreak investigation.

Methods

A case was defined as a child attending the day-care centre, in whom eae- and stx1- but not stx2-positive E. coli O145:H28 was diagnosed from a faecal sample, with multilocus variable number of tandem repeat analysis (MLVA) profile identical to the index isolate. All 61 children, a staff of 14 in the day-care centre, and 74 close contacts submitted faecal samples. Staff and parents were interviewed about cases' exposure to foods and animals. Faecal samples from 31 ewes from a sheep herd to which the children were exposed were analyzed for E. coli O145.

Results

Sixteen cases were identified, from which nine presented diarrhoea but not haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). The attack rate was 0.26, and varied between age groups (0.13-0.40) and between the three day-care centre departments (0.20-0.50), and was significantly higher amongst the youngest children. Median duration of shedding was 20 days (0-71 days). Children were excluded from the day-care centre during shedding, requiring parents to take compassionate leave, estimated to be a minimum total of 406 days for all cases. Atypical enteropathogenic E. coli (aEPEC) were detected among 14 children other than cases. These isolates were genotypically different from the outbreak strain. Children in the day-care centre were exposed to faecal pollution from a sheep herd, but E. coli O145 was not detected in the sheep.

Conclusions

We report an outbreak of stx1- and eae-positive STEC O145:H28 infection with mild symptoms among children in a day-care centre. Extensive sampling showed occurrence of the outbreak strain as well as other STEC and aEPEC strains in the outbreak population. MLVA-typing of the STEC-isolates strongly indicates a common source of infection. The study describes epidemiological aspects and socioeconomic consequences of a non-O157 STEC outbreak, which are less commonly reported than O157 outbreaks.