Escherichia fergusonii has been associated with a wide variety of intestinal and extra-intestinal infections in both humans and animals but, despite strong circumstantial evidence, the degree to which the organism is responsible for the pathologies identified remains uncertain. Thirty isolates of E. fergusonii collected between 2003 and 2004 were screened using an Escherichia coli virulence gene array to test for the presence of homologous virulence genes in E. fergusonii. The iss (increased serum survival) gene was present in 13/30 (43%) of the test strains and the prfB (P-related fimbriae regulatory) and ireA (siderophore receptor IreA) genes were also detected jointly in 3/30 (10%) strains. No known virulence genes were detected in 14/30 (47%) of strains. Following confirmatory PCR and sequence analysis, the E. fergusoniiprfB, iss and ireA genes shared a high degree of sequence similarity to their counterparts in E. coli, and a particular resemblance was noted with the E. coli strain APEC O1 pathogenicity island. In tissue culture adherence assays, nine E. fergusonii isolates associated with HEp-2 cells with a 'localised adherence' or 'diffuse adherence' phenotype, and they proved to be moderately invasive. The E. fergusonii isolates in this study possess both some phenotypic and genotypic features linked to known pathotypes of E. coli, and support existing evidence that strains of E. fergusonii may act as an opportunistic pathogens, although their specific virulence factors may need to be explored.