Detection and Prevalence of Top 6 non-O157 Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli in Beef
There has been an increased incidence of non-O157 Shiga Toxin Escherichia coli (STEC) with six serotypes (Top 6) being implicated in causing haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Beef has been suggested to be a significant vehicle for non-O157 STEC although conclusive evidence has yet to be obtained. The following aimed to determine the prevalence of the Top 6 non-O157 STEC in beef processing using three different diagnostic platforms then characterize the recovered isolates. Hide, carcass and environmental swab samples (n = 120) were collected from beef processing facilities over a 12 month period. Enriched samples were screened using Biocontrol GDS, BAX or PALLgene molecular diagnostic tests. Presumptive non-O157 STEC positive samples were confirmed using conventional PCR and serology. STEC was detected by GDS (55% positive), BAX (85% positive), and PALLgene (93%). However, during confirmation testing only 18 of the 120 samples (15%) were found to harbour STEC. Interestingly, the presence of virulence factors in the recovered isolates was unstable and readily lost during subsequent sub-culturing. There is a low prevalence of Top 6 non-O157 STEC associated with beef although other serotypes are encountered. Yet, the instability of the virulence factors in recovered strains would question their clinical relevance.