Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) and atypical enteropathogenic E. coli (aEPEC) in Swedish retail wheat flour.

Söderlund R, Flink C, Aspán A, Eriksson E

Access Microbiol 5 (5) - [2023-05-03; online 2023-05-03]

Wheat flour has been identified as the source of multiple outbreaks of gastrointestinal disease caused by shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC). We have investigated the presence and genomic characteristics of STEC and related atypical enteropathogenic E. coli (aEPEC) in 200 bags of Swedish-produced retail wheat flour, representing 87 products and 25 brands. Samples were enriched in modified tryptone soya broth (mTSB) and screened with real-time PCR targeting stx, 1stx and 2eae, and the serogroups O157, O121 and O26. Isolation was performed by immunomagnetic separation (IMS) for suspected STEC/aEPEC O157, O121 and O26, and by screening pools of colonies for other STEC. Real-time PCR after enrichment revealed 12 % of samples to be positive for shiga toxin genes (stx and/or 1stx) and 11 % to be positive for intimin (2eae). Organic production, small-scale production or whole grain did not significantly influence shiga toxin gene presence or absence in a generalized linear mixed model analysis. Eight isolates of STEC were recovered, all of which were intimin-negative. Multiple serotype/sequence type/shiga toxin subtype combinations that have also been found in flour samples in other European countries were recovered. Most STEC types recovered were associated with sporadic cases of STEC among humans in Sweden, but no types known to have caused outbreaks or severe cases of disease (i.e. haemolytic uraemic syndrome) were found. The most common finding was O187:H28 ST200 with stx, with possible links to cervid hosts. Wildlife associated with crop damage is a plausible explanation for at least some of the surprisingly high frequency of STEC in wheat flour.2g

Clinical Genomics Stockholm [Service]

PubMed 37323947

DOI 10.1099/acmi.0.000577.v3

Crossref 10.1099/acmi.0.000577.v3

pmc: PMC10267659
pii: 000577.v3

Publications 9.5.0