The prevalence and characterization of verotoxin-producing Escherichia coli isolated from cattle and pigs in an abattoir in Hong Kong

Hang Mei Polly Leung, W.C. Yam, W.W.S. Ng, J.S.M. Peiris

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


The aim of the study was to define the prevalence of verotoxin-producing Escherichia coli (VTEC) in cattle and pigs in a Hong Kong abattoir. Faecal and carcass samples collected from 986 cattle and 487 pigs from an abattoir were tested for verotoxin (VT) by PCR and cytotoxicity assays. VTEC was isolated from 41.5 and 1.8 % of cattle faecal and carcass samples and from 2.1 and 0.2 % of porcine faecal and carcass samples, respectively. Amongst 409 VTEC isolates from cattle, 9 were serotype O157:H7 and eaeA(+). The most prevalent vt genotype among bovine VTEC was vtl(+)vt(2+) (73.8 %) and in porcine VTEC was vt2e(+) (30%). None of the porcine VTEC isolates and 9.3% of the bovine VTEC isolates was eaeA(+). The non-O157 serogroup VTEC isolates carrying eaeA and EHEC-hly A belonged to serogroups O172, O15, O84, O91, O110 and O121. The local dietary preference for pork or chicken (rather than beef), the low VTEC carriage in pigs, the rarity of additional virulence factors (eaeA) in VTEC isolated from cattle may explain the apparently low incidence of human diarrhoeal disease associated with VTEC in Hong Kong hitherto. However, the presence of non-O157 VTEC strains carrying the eaeA virulence marker in cattle highlights the fact that sole reliance on sorbitol-MacConkey agar for screening human VTEC isolates may underestimate the human disease burden. The changing dietary habits of the population in Hong Kong reinforce the need for continued vigilance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-179
Number of pages7
JournalEpidemiology and Infection
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Infectious Diseases

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