Antimicrobial-resistant and extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli in retail foods

J Infect Dis. 2005 Apr 1;191(7):1040-9. doi: 10.1086/428451. Epub 2005 Mar 1.


Background: Extraintestinal Escherichia coli infections are associated with specialized extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli (ExPEC) strains and, increasingly, with antimicrobial resistance. The food supply may disseminate ExPEC and antimicrobial-resistant E. coli.

Methods: In a prospective survey of 1648 diverse food items from 10 retail markets in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area during 2001-2003, selective cultures and disk-diffusion assays for the isolation and characterization of antimicrobial-resistant E. coli and polymerase chain reaction-based assays and O serotyping to define ExPEC-associated traits were performed.

Results: E. coli contamination exhibited a prevalence gradient from miscellaneous foods (9%), through beef or pork (69%), to poultry (92%; P<.001). Among E. coli-positive samples, similar prevalence gradients were detected for antimicrobial resistance (27%, 85%, and 94% of samples, respectively; P<.001) and ExPEC contamination (4%, 19%, and 46%, respectively; P<.001). By multivariate analysis, beef or pork and poultry from natural-food stores exhibited reduced risks of E. coli contamination and antimicrobial resistance. Indirect evidence suggested on-farm selection of resistance. Four food-source ExPEC isolates (from pea pods, turkey parts, ground pork, and vegetable dip) closely resembled selected human clinical isolates by O antigen and genomic profile.

Conclusions: Retail foods may be an important vehicle for community-wide dissemination of antimicrobial-resistant E. coli and ExPEC, which may represent a newly recognized group of medically significant foodborne pathogens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Escherichia coli / classification*
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects*
  • Escherichia coli / isolation & purification
  • Escherichia coli Infections / microbiology*
  • Escherichia coli Infections / transmission*
  • Food Microbiology*
  • Foodborne Diseases
  • Humans
  • Meat / microbiology
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • O Antigens / genetics
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Poultry Products / microbiology
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Serotyping
  • Swine


  • O Antigens