Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 34586892
Link to DOI – 10.1128/JCM.01530-21
J Clin Microbiol 2021 Sep; (): JCM0153021
Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) O80:H2, belonging to sequence type ST301, is among the main causes of hemolytic and uremic syndrome in Europe, a major concern in young children. Aside from the usual intimin and Shiga toxin virulence factors (VFs), this emerging serotype possesses a mosaic plasmid combining extra-intestinal VF- and antibiotic resistance-encoding genes. This hybrid pathotype can be involved in invasive infections, a rare occurrence in EHEC infections. Here, we aimed to optimize its detection, improve its clinical diagnosis, and identify its currently unknown reservoir. O80:H2 EHEC strains isolated in France between 2010 and 2018 were phenotypically and genetically analyzed and compared to non-O80 strains. The specificity and sensitivity of a PCR test and a culture medium designed, based on the molecular and phenotypic signatures of O80:H2 EHEC, were assessed on a collection of strains and stool samples. O80:H2 biotype analysis showed that none of the strains (n=137) fermented melibiose versus 5% of non-O80 EHEC (n=19/352). This loss of metabolic function is due to deletion of the entire melibiose operon associated with the insertion of a 70-pb sequence (70mel), a genetic scar shared by all ST301 strains. This metabolic hallmark was used to develop a real-time PCR test (100% sensitivity, 98.3% specificity) and a melibiose-based culture medium including antibiotics, characterized by 85% specificity and sensitivity for clinical specimens. These new tools may facilitate the diagnosis of this atypical clone, help the food industry to identify the reservoir and improve our epidemiological knowledge of this threatening and emerging clone.