AIM: The purpose of this work was to identify and genetically characterize enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) and enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC) O80:H2 from diarrhoeic and septicaemic calves in Belgium and to comparing them with human EHEC after whole genome sequencing.
METHODS AND RESULTS: Ten EHEC and 21 EPEC O80 identified by PCR between 2009 and 2018 from faeces, intestinal content and a kidney of diarrhoeic or septicaemic calves were genome sequenced and compared to 19 human EHEC identified between 2008 and 2019. They all belonged to the O80:H2 serotype and ST301, harboured the eaeξ gene, and 23 of the 29 EHEC contained the stx2d gene. Phylogenetically, they were distributed in two major sub-lineages: one comprised a majority of bovine EPEC whereas the second one comprised a majority of stx2d bovine and human EHEC.
CONCLUSIONS: Not only EPEC but also EHEC O80:H2 are present in diarrhoeic and septicaemic calves in Belgium and are genetically related to human EHEC.
SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPACT OF THE STUDY: These findings support the need to assess cattle as potential source of contamination of humans by EHEC O80:H2 and to understand the evolution of bovine and human EHEC and EPEC O80:H2.