Background: The epidemiology and clinical characteristics of the hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS) caused by Escherichia coli O157:H7 are well-known, but HUS attributable to non-O157:H7 Shiga toxin (Stx)-producing E. coli (STEC) are less thoroughly described. Here we report a cluster of HUS cases caused by STEC O26:H11 the most common non-O157:H7 STEC isolated from sporadic cases of HUS in Europe.
Methods: Three children between 13 and 17 months of age, living in the same small town, developed HUS within an interval of 5 days. We present clinical and microbiologic data on the patients and their infecting isolates.
Results: The clinical course ranged from mild uncomplicated HUS to severe HUS complicated by multiorgan involvement. Microbiologic investigation demonstrated STEC of serotype O26:H11 in stools of all the patients. The phenotypic and molecular characterization of the STEC O26:H11 isolates demonstrated that these strains were identical and, unusual for STEC O26, they harbored the stx2 but not the stx1 gene. None of the patients had evidence of STEC O157:H7 infection either by culture or by E. coli O157 serology. The source of the STEC O26:H11 infection was undetermined.
Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that diagnostic procedures based on the detection of stx genes and/or Stx production and subsequent subtyping of the isolates using molecular methods are necessary to identify such outbreaks caused by non-O157:H7 STEC.