Asymptomatic carriage of verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli O157 in farm workers in Northern Italy

Epidemiol Infect. 2004 Oct;132(5):915-9. doi: 10.1017/s0950268804002390.


Faecal samples from 350 farm workers on 276 dairy farms and 50 abattoir employees from seven different operations were examined for the presence of Verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli 0157 (VTEC O157) by an O157-specific enzyme-linked fluorescent assay followed by immunoconcentration. VTEC O157 was isolated from four (1.1%) of the farm workers. A second stool sample was obtained from the positive farm workers as well as from their household contacts. VTEC O157 was isolated from the wife of one of them. The strains from the same household shared the same Verocytotoxin genes profile, phage type and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis pattern. The VTEC O157-positive subjects had neither intestinal symptoms at the moment of sampling nor a history of bloody diarrhoea or renal failure. Our study seems to confirm the hypothesis that farm residents often develop immunity to VTEC O157 infection, possibly due to recurrent exposure to less virulent strains of VTEC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abattoirs
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / microbiology
  • Animals
  • Carrier State / epidemiology
  • Cattle
  • Child
  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Bacterial / analysis
  • Dairying
  • Escherichia coli Infections / epidemiology*
  • Escherichia coli Infections / microbiology
  • Escherichia coli O157 / genetics
  • Escherichia coli O157 / isolation & purification*
  • Escherichia coli O157 / metabolism
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Shiga Toxins / biosynthesis


  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Shiga Toxins