1887

Abstract

In June 2023, UKHSA surveillance systems detected an outbreak of severe gastrointestinal symptoms caused by a rare serotype of Shiga toxin-producing , STEC O183:H18. There were 26 cases aged 6 months to 74 years (42 % cases were aged 0–9 years), distributed across the UK with onset dates range between 22 May 2023 and 4 July 2023. The epidemiological and food chain investigations were inconclusive, although meat products made from beef mince were implicated as a potential vehicle. The outbreak strain belonged to sequence type (ST) 657 and harboured a Shiga toxin () subtype located on a prophage that was unique in the UKHSA -encoding bacteriophage database. Plasmid encoded, putative virulence genes , , , and were detected, however, the established STEC virulence genes involved in attachment to the gut mucosa ( and ) were absent. The acquisition of across the global population structure of ST657 appeared to correspond with the presence of , , , and . During the outbreak investigation, we used long read sequencing to characterise the plasmid and prophage content of this atypical STEC, to look for evidence to explain its recent emergence. Although we were unable to determine source and transmission route of the outbreak strain, the genomic analysis revealed potential clues as to how novel strains for STEC evolve. With the implementation of PCR capable of detecting all STEC, and genome sequencing for typing and virulence profiling, we have the tools to enable us to monitor the changing landscape of STEC. Improvements in the standardised collection of epidemiological data and trace-back strategies within the food industry, will ensure we have a surveillance system capable of alerting us to emerging threats to public health.

Funding
This study was supported by the:
  • National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit (Award 111815)
    • Principle Award Recipient: ClaireJenkins
  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. This article was made open access via a Publish and Read agreement between the Microbiology Society and the corresponding author’s institution.
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2024-05-21
2024-06-19
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