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Location: Environmental Microbial & Food Safety Laboratory

Title: Old friends in new places: exploring the role of extraintestinal E.coli in intestinal disease and foodborne illness

item Markland, Sarah - University Of Delaware
item Lestrange, Kyle - University Of Delaware
item Sharma, Manan
item Kniel, Kalmia - University Of Delaware

Submitted to: Zoonoses and Public Health
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/27/2015
Publication Date: 4/27/2015
Publication URL:
Citation: Markland, S.M., Lestrange, K.J., Sharma, M., Kniel, K.E. 2015. Old friends in new places: exploring the role of extraintestinal E.coli in intestinal disease and foodborne illness. Zoonoses and Public Health. doi: 10.1111/zph.12194.

Interpretive Summary: The emergence of antibiotic-resistant Escherichia coli infections in humans has led to curiosity about the environmental reservoirs of these pathogens. Since 80% of the cases of foodborne illness are not associated with a known etiological agent, it has been postulated that antibiotic-resistant extraintestinal E. coli (ExPEC) may be transmitted to humans through food, where they may cause either gastrointestinal or non-gastrointestinal infections. Avian Pathogenic E. coli (APEC), mainly found in poultry, is an example of an ExPEC; research suggests that this organism causes gastrointestinal illnesses as well as foodborne urinary tract infections (FUTIs). This article describes the types of illnesses that may be associated with APEC and potential routes of transmission to humans. This information will be of interest to other scientists and regulatory agencies.

Technical Abstract: The emergence of new antibiotic-resistant Escherichia coli pathotypes associated with human disease has led to an investigation in terms of the origins of these pathogens. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unspecified agents are responsible for 38.4 million out of the 48 million (80 %) cases of foodborne illnesses each year in the United States. It is hypothesized that environmental E. coli not typically associated with the ability to cause disease in humans could potentially be responsible for these cases. In order for an environmental E. coli isolate to have the ability to cause foodborne illness, it must be able to utilize the same attachment and virulence mechanisms utilized by other human pathogenic E. coli. Recent research has shown that many avian pathogenic E. coli (APEC) isolated from poultry harbor attachment and virulence genes also currently found in human pathogenic E. coli isolates. Research also suggests that, in addition to the ability to cause gastrointestinal illnesses, APEC may also be an etiological agent of foodborne urinary tract infections (FUTIs). The purpose of this article is to evaluate the ability of APEC to cause disease in humans, their potential for zoonotic transfer along with discussion on the types of illnesses that may be associated with these pathogens.