Bacterial aetiology of diarrhoea in young children: high prevalence of enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) not belonging to the classical EPEC serogroups

Pathol Biol (Paris). 2006 Dec;54(10):600-2. doi: 10.1016/j.patbio.2006.07.034. Epub 2006 Oct 5.


Diarrhoeal disease continues to be one of the most common causes of admittance in Children hospital emergency. The aim of the present study was to investigate the relative contribution of enteropathogenic and enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EPEC and EHEC, respectively) as a cause of infectious bacterial diarrhoea in children from the region of Toulouse. We analysed 280 samples of stools from 280 children (<2 years) with diarrhoea admitted in the "Hopital des Enfants" from January to August 2005. Classic pathogens (Salmonella, Campylobacter, Yersinia, Shigella, Aeromonas and Vibrio) were detected by standard culture methods. Enterotoxigenic Clostridium difficile were identified after culture by immuno-enzyme assay (IEA). Virulence genes of EPEC and EHEC were detected by using PCR. Shiga-toxin production of EHEC strains was confirmed with an IEA test. Potential enteric pathogens were identified in 55 patients. EPEC was the most frequently identified agent (30 patients), followed by Campylobacter (9 cases: 7 C. jejuni and 2 C. coli) and C. difficile (8 patients), then EHEC (5 patients) and Salmonella (3 patients). No Shigella, Yersinia, Aeromonas or other pathogenic bacteria were detected during this period in that class of children. EPEC not belonging to the classical EPEC serogroups were highly prevalent (24 versus 6). EHEC possessed different genotypes and serogroups: O26 (2 strains), O157 (2 strains) and one un-typable strain. This study demonstrates the importance of EPEC (55 % of positive cases) and of EHEC (more frequent than Salmonella) in the aetiology of diarrhoeal diseases of young children. We confirm the usefulness of the PCR methodology: it allows the detection of virulent E. coli and thus increases by two fold the diagnosis of bacterial diarrhoea.

MeSH terms

  • Diarrhea, Infantile / classification
  • Diarrhea, Infantile / epidemiology
  • Diarrhea, Infantile / microbiology*
  • Escherichia coli / classification
  • Escherichia coli / pathogenicity*
  • Escherichia coli Infections / epidemiology*
  • France / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Serotyping