Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) can cause severe clinical diseases in humans, such as haemorrhagic colitis (HC) and haemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). Although ruminants, primarily cattle, have been suggested as typical reservoirs of STEC, many food products of other origins, including pork products, have been confirmed as vehicles for STEC transmission. Only in rare cases, pork consumption is associated with severe clinical symptoms caused by high pathogenic STEC strains. However, in these outbreaks, it is unknown whether the contamination of food products occurs during swine processing or via cross-contamination from foodstuffs of different sources. In swine, STEC plays an important role in the pathogenesis of oedema disease. In particular a Shiga toxin subtype, named stx2e, it is considered as a key factor involved in the damage of swine endothelial cells. On the contrary, stx2e-producing Escherichia coli has rarely been isolated in humans, and usually only from asymptomatic carriers or from patients with mild symptoms, such as uncomplicated diarrhoea. In fact, the presence of gene stx2e, encoding for stx2e, has rarely been reported in STEC strains that cause HUS. Moreover, stx2e-producing STEC isolated from humans and pigs were found to differ in serogroup, their virulence profile and interaction with intestinal epithelial cells. Because of the limited epidemiologic data of STEC in swine and the increasing role of non-O157 STEC in human illnesses, the relationship between swine STEC and human disease needs to be further investigated.
Escherichia coli; STEC; Pig; Stx2e; PCR