The aim of this work was to test 101 strains of E. coli for virulence factors associated with enterotoxigenic and enterohemorrhagic pathotypes of E. coli isolated from diarrheic and non-diarrheic calves. The virulence factors of E. coli Stx1 (Shiga toxin), Stx2, Ehly (Enterohemolysin), the eae gene, LT-II (heat-labile enterotoxin), STa (heat-stable toxin), and adhesins K99 and F41 were detected by PCR. Serogroups were determined by serological methods and Stx production was observed by biological assays in Vero cells. The frequency of the eae gene was higher in isolates from diarrheic calves (35/58, 60.3%) than in non-diarrheic calves (8/43, 18.6%; P < 0.001). The gene for Stx1 occurred at high frequencies in the diarrheic strains (24/58, 41.3%) as well as in non-diarrheic (19/43, 44.2%) ones and all strains that were Stx positive by PCR showed cytotoxicity in Vero cells. Stx2 was found in ten strains, Ehly in eight strains, and LT-II in only two strains. Twenty-eight strains were negative for all of the PCR assays, including for F41 and K99 adhesins. The serogroups O7, O23, O4, O8, O153 and O156 were observed most frequently. Our results show that strains of E. coli isolated from cattle have similar virulence factors genes to strains isolated from cases of diseases in humans and may be a source of potentially pathogenic STEC for humans.
Escherichia coli; diarrhea; cattle; PCR; shiga toxin