This review compares the rates of detection of non-O157:H7 enterohaemorrhagic (EHEC) with EHEC O157:H7 in outbreaks and sporadic cases of human disease by analysing Australian data and the world literature. Numerous outbreaks of disease have been attributed to EHEC O157:H7. in many studies, isolation rates of this organism have been low and attempts to seek other EHEC have not been made. Ease of isolation and identification of the O157:H7 serotype may have given the impression that this serotype was the sole organism responsible for the outbreaks. Careful review and analysis shows that serotypes other than O157:H7 also play an important role in human disease. Evidence is presented from several overseas outbreaks described in the literature, as well as from investigations of the Adelaide O111:H outbreak, that suggests an association between severity of disease and multiple infecting serotypes. While not diminishing the role of the O157:H7/H clone, this review indicates that other serotypes can be responsible for outbreaks as well as cases of sporadic human disease. the current focus on O157:H7 has major implications in terms of diagnosis, the food industry and human health.


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