Diarrheagenic Escherichia coli Carrying Supplementary Virulence Genes Are an Important Cause of Moderate to Severe Diarrhoeal Disease in Mexico

Sandra Patzi-Vargas, Mussaret Bano Zaidi, Iza Perez-Martinez, Magda León–Cen, Alba Michel-Ayala, Damien J. Chaussabel, Teresa Estrada-Garcia

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Diarrheagenic Escherichia coli (DEC) cause acute and persistent diarrhoea worldwide, but little is known about their epidemiology in Mexico. We determined the prevalence of bacterial enteropathogens in 831 children with acute diarrhoea over a four-year period in Yucatan, Mexico. Six DEC supplementary virulence genes (SVG), mainly associated with enteroaggregative E. coli (EAEC), were sought in 3100 E. coli isolates. DEC was the most common bacterial enteropathogen (28%), surpassing Salmonella (12%) and Shigella (9%). Predominant DEC groups were diffusely adherent E. coli (DAEC) (35%), EAEC (24%), and enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC) (19%). Among children with DEC infections, 14% had severe illness mainly caused by EPEC (26%) and DAEC (18%); 30% had moderate diarrhoea mainly caused by DAEC (36%), mixed DEC infections (33%) and EAEC (32%). DAEC was most prevalent during spring, while ETEC, EAEC and EPEC predominated in summer. EAEC was more frequent in children 6–24 months old than in those younger than 6 months of age (P = 0.008, OR = 4.2, 95% CI, 1.3–13.9). The presence of SVG dispersin, (aatA), dispersin-translocator (aatA), enteroaggregative heat-stable toxin 1 (astA), plasmid encoded toxin (pet), cytolethal distending toxin (cdt) was higher in DEC than non-DEC strains, (36% vs 26%, P <0.0001, OR = 1.5, 95% CI, 1.3–1.8). 98% of EAEC-infected children harboured strains with SVG; 85% carried the aap-aatA gene combination, and 33% of these also carried astA. 28% of both EPEC and ETEC, and 6% of DAEC patients had strains with SVG. 54% of EPEC patients carried pet-positive strains alone or in combination with astA; only this DEC group harboured cdt-positive isolates. All ETEC patients carried astA- or astA-aap-positive strains. astA and aap were the most common SVG in DAEC (3% and 2%) and non-DEC strains (21% and 13%). DEC carrying SVG are an important cause of moderate to severe bacterial diarrhoea in Mexican children.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0003510
JournalPLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases

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