A collection of epidemiologically unrelated verocytotoxin (VT)-producing (VTEC) strains of serogroup O111 isolated from human patients and cattle with diarrhoeal disease in five different countries were characterised by determination of their VT genotypes, the presence of other virulence factors such as the intimin-coding gene and the enterohaemorrhagic (EHEC) plasmid, and their antibiotic susceptibility patterns. The genetic relatedness among isolates was evaluated by genomic DNA fingerprinting techniques such as restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis of ribosomal RNA genes (ribotyping) and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. The results indicated that the VTEC O111 examined belong to two distinct clonal lineages. The first group was constituted mainly of non-motile, eae-positive, EHEC plasmid-positive isolates from both man and cattle. The second lineage was represented by an 0111:H2 epidemic strain, isolated during an outbreak of haemolytic uraemic syndrome in France and exhibiting an unusual combination of virulence factors: VT production and aggregative adhesion to HEp-2 cells associated with an enteroaggregative (EAEC) plasmid.


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