One hundred seventy-three Escherichia coli strains isolated from calves from northwestern São Paulo State, having diarrhea were examined for the production of thermolabile (LT) and thermostable (ST) enterotoxins and for the presence of virulence factors associated with bovine colibacillosis. Eighty-five (49.1%) of the E.coli strains produced toxins; 53 isolates were detected as producing STa toxin, and 9 also produced LT toxin. By PCR, 23 isolates were shown to harbor only the LT-II gene. Nine (5.2%) isolates harbored Shiga toxin genes: four carried the stx2 gene, four the stx1 gene and one carried both. Three of the isolates showing stx1 also carried the eae gene. Among the E. coli isolates examined for susceptibility to 10 antimicrobial agents, resistance to cephalothin (46.1%), was most commonly observed, followed by resistances to tetracycline (45.7%), trimethoprim-sulfadiazine (43.3%) and ampicilin (41.0%). All isolates showed resistance to at least two antimicrobial agents; multidrug resistance was quite frequently encountered. Results showed that bovine E. coli produces some toxins and virulence factors, some of which may be involved in human disease. The isolates showed a high level of resistance to antimicrobial agents constituting a public health concern.
calf; diarrhea; Escherichia coli; virulence factor; antimicrobial agent