Enteroaggregative Escherichia coli in mid-Norway: A prospective, case control study

PLoS One. 2024 Apr 18;19(4):e0301625. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0301625. eCollection 2024.


Background: The use of molecular methods has led to increased detection of Enteroaggregative Escherichia coli (EAEC) in faecal samples. Studies have yielded conflicting results regarding the clinical relevance of this finding. The objective of this study was to investigate the prevalence of EAEC in faecal samples from patients with diarrhoea and healthy controls and describe characteristics of EAEC positive persons.

Methods: From March 1st, 2017 to February 28th, 2019, we investigated all consecutive faecal samples from patients with diarrhoea received at the laboratory and collected faecal samples from randomly invited healthy controls from mid-Norway. Real-time multiplex PCR was used for detection of bacterial, viral, and parasitic pathogens. We registered sex, age, urban versus non-urban residency, and travel history for all participants. Statistical analyses were performed with Pearson chi-squared test, Kruskal-Wallis test, and Mann-Whitney U test.

Results: We identified EAEC in 440 of 9487 (4.6%) patients with diarrhoea and 8 of 375 (2.2%) healthy controls. The EAEC prevalence was 19.1% among those with diarrhoea and recent foreign travel and 2.2% in those without travel history independent of diarrhoea. Concomitant pathogens were detected in 64.3% of EAEC-positive patients with diarrhoea. The median age was 28.5 in those with EAEC-positive diarrhoea and 38 in those with EAEC-negative diarrhoea (p <0.01). In patients with diarrhoea, travel was reported in 72% of those with EAEC and concomitant pathogens, and 54% and 12% in those with only EAEC and no EAEC, respectively (p <0.01).

Conclusions: EAEC was a common detection, particularly in patients with diarrhoea and recent international travel, and was found together with other intestinal pathogens in the majority of cases. Our results suggest that domestically acquired EAEC is not associated with diarrhoea. Patients with EAEC-positive diarrhoea and concomitant pathogens were young and often reported recent travel history compared to other patients with diarrhoea.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Diarrhea / microbiology
  • Escherichia coli Infections* / microbiology
  • Escherichia coli*
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies

Grants and funding

The funder provided support in the form of salaries for authors IH, MGH, BS, DAM, AB, LCO, and JEA but did not have any additional role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The specific roles of these authors are articulated in the ‘author contributions’ section.