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Title: tir- and stx- positive Escherichia coli in stream waters in a metropolitan area

Author: Higgins, James A.; Belt, Kenneth T.; Karns, Jeffrey S.; Russell-Anelli, Jonathan; Shelton, Daniel R.

Year: 2005

Publication: Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 71: 2511-2519.

Abstract: Diarrheagenic Escherichia coli, which may include the enteropathogenic E. coli and the enterohemorrhagic E. coli, are a significant cause of diarrheal disease among infants and children in both developing and developed areas. Disease outbreaks related to freshwater exposure have been documented, but the presence of these organisms in the urban aquatic environment is not well characterized. From April 2002 through April 2004 we conducted weekly surveys of streams in the metropolitan Baltimore, Md., area for the prevalence of potentially pathogenic E. coli by using PCR assays targeting the tir and stx1 and stx2 genes. Coliforms testing positive for the presence of the tir gene were cultured from 653 of 1,218 samples (53%), with a greater prevalence associated with urban, polluted streams than in suburban and forested watershed streams. Polluted urban streams were also more likely to test positive for the presence of one of the stx genes. Sequence analysis of the tir amplicon, as well as the entire tir gene from three isolates, indicated that the pathogenic E. coli present in the stream waters has a high degree of sequence homology with the E. coli O157:H7 serotype. Our data indicate that pathogenic E. coli are continually deposited into a variety of stream habitats and suggest that this organism may be a permanent member of the gastrointestinal microflora of humans and animals in the metropolitan Baltimore area.

Last Modified: 10/15/2008

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