Pigeons as a Possible Reservoir of Shiga Toxin 2f-producing Escherichia Coli Pathogenic to Humans

Berl Munch Tierarztl Wochenschr. Nov-Dec 2005;118(11-12):464-70.


Escherichia coli harboring stx2f which secrete the respective Shiga toxin (Stx) are frequently found in pigeons. In this report we describe the isolation of a stx2f-containing E. coli O128 strain from an 11-month old child with diarrhea and comparison of this strain with stx2f-positive E. coli isolates from droppings of pigeons. The human E. coli O128:NM (nonmotile) isolate had a fliC restriction fragment length polymorphism pattern identical to that in one of the pigeon isolates belonging to the serotype O128:H2. All isolates examined, including that from the patient and five from pigeons, contained the intimin-encoding eae gene in addition to stx2f and all of the strains possessed the gene encoding the major subunit of the long polar fimbriae in enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) 026. Plasmid-associated virulence genes such as EHEC-hlyA, as well as urease and tellurite resistance-encoding operons were absent from all the strains and this correlated with their lack of hemolytic activity and urease production and tellurite sensitivity. These features, together with the sorbitol fermentation phenotype of Stx2f-producing E. coli, hamper the laboratory diagnosis of these strains. Our data demonstrate that pigeons may be a reservoir of Stx2f-producing E. coli strains associated with human disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bird Diseases / microbiology
  • Bird Diseases / transmission
  • Columbidae*
  • DNA, Bacterial / analysis
  • Disease Reservoirs / veterinary*
  • Escherichia coli / classification
  • Escherichia coli / isolation & purification*
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli Infections / microbiology
  • Escherichia coli Infections / transmission
  • Escherichia coli Infections / veterinary*
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Phenotype
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Polymorphism, Restriction Fragment Length
  • Public Health
  • Serotyping
  • Shiga Toxin / analysis
  • Shiga Toxin / biosynthesis
  • Shiga Toxin / genetics
  • Virulence Factors / analysis
  • Virulence Factors / genetics
  • Zoonoses*


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Virulence Factors
  • Shiga Toxin