Stx-phages: drivers and mediators of the evolution of STEC and STEC-like pathogens

Future Microbiol. 2007 Apr;2(2):165-74. doi: 10.2217/17460913.2.2.165.


Bacteriophages, also known as phages, are viruses that infect bacteria. Until recently they have been ignored by most of the scientific community, but their impact upon our world is enormous. They are the most abundant lifeform on the globe and drive the diversity and abundance of bacteria around us, including, in many instances, the pathogenic profiles of many of mankind's most feared bacterial pathogens. This article focuses on how a group of bacteriophages, Stx-phages, which carry the genes encoding Shiga toxin, have driven and are driving the emergence of Shiga toxin-producing pathogens such as the infamous Escherichia coli O157:H7. Since the emergence of this foodborne pathogen as a cause of significant human disease in 1982, more than 500 different serogroups of E. coli have been reported to produce Shiga toxin, as well as a few other organisms. These events and many more are all controlled by the biology of Stx-phages.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteriophages / genetics
  • Bacteriophages / metabolism*
  • Bacteriophages / pathogenicity
  • Escherichia coli / ultrastructure
  • Escherichia coli / virology
  • Escherichia coli O157 / ultrastructure
  • Escherichia coli O157 / virology
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Shiga Toxin / genetics
  • Shiga Toxin / metabolism*
  • Virulence / genetics


  • Shiga Toxin