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VEROCYTOTOXIGENIC Escherichia coli (VTEC) O157 is widely documented as causing a broad range of conditions in human beings, from asymptomatic infection or mild diarrhoea to severe haemorrhagic diarrhoea with complications such as haemolytic-uraemic syndrome (HUS) (Karmali and others 1983, Friedrich and others 2002, Tarr and others 2005).
The pathogenicity of VTECs relates mainly to the production of verocytotoxins (VTs) types 1 and 2, encoded by the bacteriophage vtx1 and vtx2 genes. VTs attach to globotriaosylceramide (Gb3) receptors on eukaryotic cells before being transported to the endoplasmic reticulum, where they inhibit protein synthesis. The resulting destruction of endothelial cells in the intestine causes diarrhoea, while in cases of HUS widespread thrombotic microangiopathy occurs due to toxins targeting kidney, brain, pancreas and lung cells (Jenkins and others 2008, Karmali and others 2010). Many VTEC strains also possess intimin, an outer membrane protein encoded by the chromosomal attaching and effacing (eae) gene, which facilitates the formation of attaching and effacing …
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