© 2016 Xu et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Atypical enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (aEPEC) is considered to be an emerging enteropathogen that is more prevalent than typical EPEC in developing and developed countries. The major adherence factor, intimin, an outer membrane protein encoded by eae, plays a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of aEPEC. This study investigated the distribution and polymorphisms of intimin subtypes of 143 aEPEC strains from diarrheal patients, healthy carriers, animals, and raw meats in China. These aEPEC strains belonged to more than 71 different serotypes, which comprised 52 O serogroups and 24 H types. Sixty-eight different eae genotypes and 19 intimin subtypes were detected. Eighteen, eight, seven, and five intimin subtypes were identified from 86 diarrheal patients, 14 healthy carriers, 19 animals, and 24 raw meats strains, respectively. Intimin β1 was the most prevalent subtype in strains from diarrheal patients (34.88%) and animals (47.37%). There was a statistically significant difference in the distribution of eae-β1 between diarrheal patients and healthy carriers (P = 0.004). Intimin-θ was more predominant among raw meat strains (50%) than among diarrheal patients strains (12.79%, P = 0.0003), healthy carrier strains (7.14%, P = 0.007), or animal strains (15.79%, P = 0.020). The two predominant subtypes (eae-β1 and eae-θ) had considerable polymorphisms with no significant differences among the four sources. PFGE analysis revealed 119 distinct patterns and the strains were clustered into 11 groups with similarity indices ranging from 63% to 100%. These results suggest that in China, aEPEC strains from different sources are highly heterogeneous. Animals and raw meats are important sources of genetically diverse intimin-harboring aEPEC, which might serve as important transmission vehicles of these bacteria.
Xu, Y., Bai, X., Zhao, A., Zhang, W., Ba, P., Liu, K., … Xiong, Y. (2016). Genetic diversity of intimin gene of atypical enteropathogenic Escherichia coli isolated from human, animals and raw meats in China. PLoS ONE, 11(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0152571