The putative virulence and antimicrobial resistance gene contents of extended spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL)-positive E. coli (n=629) isolated between 2005 and 2009 from humans, animals and animal food products in Germany, The Netherlands and the UK were compared using a microarray approach to test the suitability of this approach with regard to determining their similarities. A selection of isolates (n=313) were also analysed by multilocus sequence typing (MLST). Isolates harbouring bla(CTX-M-group-1) dominated (66%, n=418) and originated from both animals and cases of human infections in all three countries; 23% (n=144) of all isolates contained both bla(CTX-M-group-1) and bla(OXA-1-like) genes, predominantly from humans (n=127) and UK cattle (n=15). The antimicrobial resistance and virulence gene profiles of this collection of isolates were highly diverse. A substantial number of human isolates (32%, n=87) did not share more than 40% similarity (based on the Jaccard coefficient) with animal isolates. A further 43% of human isolates from the three countries (n=117) were at least 40% similar to each other and to five isolates from UK cattle and one each from Dutch chicken meat and a German dog; the members of this group usually harboured genes such as mph(A), mrx, aac(6')-Ib, catB3, bla(OXA-1-like) and bla(CTX-M-group-1). forty-four per cent of the MLST-typed isolates in this group belonged to ST131 (n=18) and 22% to ST405 (n=9), all from humans. Among animal isolates subjected to MLST (n=258), only 1.2% (n=3) were more than 70% similar to human isolates in gene profiles and shared the same MLST clonal complex with the corresponding human isolates. The results suggest that minimising human-to-human transmission is essential to control the spread of ESBL-positive E. coli in humans.