Shiga-toxigenic O157:H7 (STEC O157:H7) is associated with potentially fatal human disease, and a persistent reservoir of the organism is present in some farm animal species, especially cattle and sheep. The mechanisms of persistent colonisation of the ruminant intestine by STEC O157:H7 are poorly understood but may be associated with intimate adherence to eukaryotic cells. Intimate adherence, as evidenced by induction of attaching-effacing (AE) lesions by STEC O157, has been observed in 6-day-old conventional lambs after deliberate oral infection but not in older animals. Thus, the present study used a ligated intestinal loop technique to investigate whether STEC O157:H7 and other attaching-effacing may adhere intimately to the sheep large intestinal mucosa. To do this, four STEC O157:H7 strains, one STEC O26:K60:H11 and one Shiga toxin-negative O157:H7 strain, suspended in either phosphate-buffered saline or Dulbecco's modified Eagle's medium, were inoculated into ligated spiral colon loops of each of two lambs. The loops were removed 6 h after inoculation, fixed and examined by light and electron microscopy. AE lesions on the intestinal mucosa were produced by all the inoculated strains. However, the lesions were sparse and small, typically comprising bacterial cells intimately adhered to a single enterocyte, or a few adjacent enterocytes. There was little correlation between the extent of intimate adherence in this model and the bacterial cell density, pre-inoculation growth conditions of the bacteria or the strain tested.


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