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Verocytotoxin-Producing Escherichia coli O26 in Raw Water Buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) Milk Products in Italy

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Escherichia coli O26 is known as a verocytotoxin-producing E. coli (VTEC) organism that causes severe foodborne diseases such as hemorrhagic colitis and hemolytic uremic syndrome. Although cattle are the most important reservoir of VTEC, only a few reports on the role of water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) as a reservoir of VTEC and on the presence of these organisms in their milk are available. However, in Southern Italy, where water buffalo are intensively reared, an outbreak of hemolytic uremic syndrome due to E. coli O26 has recently been reported, in which the consumption of typical dairy products was considered to be a common risk factor. The aims of this work were to assess the prevalence of E. coli O26 in raw water buffalo milk, to characterize the virulence gene profiles of the isolates, and to evaluate their phenotypic antimicrobial resistance pattern. Of 160 analyzed samples, 1 (0.6%) tested positive for E. coli O26, and the isolate showed the stx1 +/stx 2 +/eae /hlyA + genotypic profile. The strain showed resistance against glycopeptides, macrolides, and penicillins. The presence of VTEC organisms in raw water buffalo milk could be considered to be a potential threat to consumers; however, the strict adherence to the processes used in the preparation of the most common buffalo dairy products could strongly mitigate the foodborne risk. To our knowledge, this article reports the first isolation and characterization of E. coli O26 VTEC in raw water buffalo milk.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Health and Animal Welfare—Faculty of Veterinary Medicine Str. Prov. Per Casamassima Km 3, 70010 Valenzano (Ba), Italy 2: Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale della Puglia e Basilicata, Via Manfredonia, 20 Foggia, Italy 3: Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale del Mezzogiorno, Via Panebianco, n. 301-87100 Cosenza, Italy 4: Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale della Sardegna, Via F. lli Kennedy-08100 Nuoro, Italy 5: ASL FG/3 Foggia, Foggia, Italy 6: ASL BA-DSS n. 5 Consultorio familiare Bari, Bari, Italy

Publication date: August 1, 2009

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