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Non-O157 Shiga Toxin–Producing Escherichia coli in Foods

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Non-O157 Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains have been linked to outbreaks and sporadic cases of illness worldwide. Illnesses linked to STEC serotypes other than O157:H7 appear to be on the rise in the United States and worldwide, indicating that some of these organisms may be emerging pathogens. As more laboratories are testing for these organisms in clinical samples, more cases are uncovered. Some cases of non-O157 STEC illness appear to be as severe as cases associated with O157, although in general cases attributed to non-O157 are less severe. There is much variation in virulence potential within STEC serotypes, and many may not be pathogenic. Of more than 400 serotypes isolated, fewer than 10 serotypes cause the majority of STEC-related human illnesses. Various virulence factors are involved in non-O157 STEC pathogenicity; the combined presence of both eae and stx genes has been associated with enhanced virulence. A scientific definition of a pathogenic STEC has not yet been accepted. Several laboratories have attempted to develop detection and identification methods, and although substantial progress has been made, a practical method of STEC detection has yet to be validated. Worldwide, foods associated with non-O157 STEC illness include sausage, ice cream, milk, and lettuce, among others. Results from several studies suggest that control measures for O157 may be effective for non-O157 STEC. More research is needed to uncover unique characteristics and resistances of non-O157 STEC strains if they exist. The public health significance of non-O157 STEC and the implications for industry practices and regulatory actions are discussed.

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: Grocery Manufacturers Association, 1350 I Street N.W., Suite 300, Washington, D.C. 20005, USA

Publication date: September 1, 2010

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    The Journal of Food Protection (JFP) is a refereed monthly publication. Each issue contains scientific research and authoritative review articles reporting on a variety of topics in food science pertaining to food safety and quality. The Journal is internationally recognized as the leading publication in the field of food microbiology with a readership exceeding 11,000 scientists from 70 countries. The Journal of Food Protection is indexed in Index Medicus, Current Contents, BIOSIS, PubMed, Medline, and many others.

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