Prevalence of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli and associated virulence genes in feces of commercial feedlot cattle.
The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) serogroups and associated virulence genes in feces of commercial feedlot cattle. During March to May 2011, fecal samples were collected from individual cattle (n=960) in 10 cohorts (cattle subpopulations within a feedlot) comprising 17,148 total steers that originated from 48 backgrounding operations in six U.S. states. Fecal samples were enriched in E. coli broth and subjected to two detection protocols: (1) an 11-gene multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR) that identifies seven O serogroups (O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, O145, and O157) and four virulence genes (stx1, stx2, eae, and ehxA) applied to extracted total DNA ("direct PCR"); and (2) cultural procedures that involve immunomagnetic separation (IMS) with O26, O103, and O111 beads, plating on a nondifferential MacConkey agar, followed by the multiplex PCR of pooled colonies ("culture-based method"). Generalized linear mixed models were used to adjust prevalence estimates for clustering. Based on direct PCR detection, O157 (49.9%) was the most prevalent O serogroup followed by O26 (20.3%), O103 (11.8%), O121 (10.7%), O45 (10.4%), O145 (2.8%), and O111 (0.8%). Cumulative adjusted prevalence estimates were 22.3, 24.6, and 0.01% for O26, O103, and O111 serogroups, respectively, based on culture-based methods. However, prevalence varied significantly by cohort (p-values<0.05) for O26, O121, and O157 based on direct PCR, and for O26, O103, and O111 serogroups based on culture-based methods. Results of this study indicate that all seven STEC serogroups were identified in feedlot cattle feces, with O157, O26, and O103 being the most prevalent serogroups. A substantial proportion of serogroup-positive samples did not harbor Shiga toxin genes; thus, additional elucidation of the potential human health risk is required. Further evaluation of diagnostic methods for non-O157 STEC is needed given their impact on prevalence estimation.