Nine hundred and twenty-five isolates from cases of diarrhoea in the United Kingdom and belonging to enteropathogenic (EPEC) O serogroups were examined for virulence properties. The tests included adhesion to HEp-2 cells, the fluorescence actin staining (FAS) test (which correlates with the ability to cause attaching and effacing lesions) and DNA hybridisations with probes to detect sequences for A ( attaching and effacing factor), EAF (EPEC adherence factor), verocytotoxins VT1 and VT2, enteroaggregative and diffusely adherent The O serogroups examined were 18, 26, 44, 55, 86, 111, 114, 119, 125, 126, 127, 128 and 142. Six hundred and sixty strains (71.4%) hybridised with at least one of the DNA probes. Over 80% of strains in O serogroups 26, 55, 119, 125, 127 and 142 and 41% of strains of serogroups 86, 111, 114, 126 and 128 hybridised with the probe and most showed localised attachment and were FAS-positive. However, <10% of these probepositive strains hybridised with the EAF probe. Eighty-four of 232 strains in O serogroups 44, 86, 111, and 126 were enteroaggregative. VT genes were detected in 57 of 402 strains in O serogroups 26, 55, 111 and 128. Identification of EPEC by serogrouping was shown to be an effective method of identifying strains with pathogenic potential, although the organisms were diverse in their properties.


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