Adriene Maria Ferreira Cavalcanti 1 , Rodrigo Tavanelli Hernandes 2 , Elizabeth Harummyy Takagi 1 , Beatriz Ernestina Cabílio Guth 3 , Érica de Lima Ori 1 , Sandra Regina Schicariol Pinheiro 1 , Tânia Sueli de Andrade 1 , Samara Louzada Oliveira 2 , Maria Cecilia Cergole-Novella 1 , Gabriela Rodrigues Francisco 1 , Luís Fernando dos Santos 1 , *
25 January 2020
Since no recent data characterizing Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) from human infections in Brazil are available, the present study aimed to investigate serotypes, stx genotypes, and accessory virulence genes, and also to perform pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and multi-locus sequence typing (MLST) of 43 STEC strains recovered from 2007 to 2017. Twenty-one distinct serotypes were found, with serotype O111:H8 being the most common. However, serotypes less frequently reported in human diseases were also found and included a hybrid STEC/ETEC O100:H25 clone. The majority of the strains carried stx1a as the sole stx genotype and were positive for the eae gene. Regarding the occurrence of 28 additional virulence genes associated with plasmids and pathogenicity islands, a diversity of profiles was found especially among the eae-harboring strains, which had combinations of markers composed of up to 12 distinct genes. Although PFGE analysis demonstrated genetic diversity between serotypes such as O157:H7, O111:H8, O26:H11, O118:H16, and O123:H2, high genetic relatedness was found for strains of serotypes O24:H4 and O145:H34. MLST allowed the identification of 17 distinct sequence types (STs) with ST 16 and 21 being the most common ones. Thirty-five percent of the strains studied were not typeable by the currently used MLST approach, suggesting new STs. Although STEC O111:H8 remains the leading serotype in Brazil, a diversity of other serotypes, some carrying virulence genes and belonging to STs incriminated as causing severe disease, were found in this study. Further studies are needed to determine whether they have any epidemiological relevance.