Evaluating the use of multilocus variable number tandem repeat analysis of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157 as a routine public health tool in England

Lisa Byrne, Richard Elson, Timothy J Dallman, Neil Perry, Philip Ashton, John Wain, Goutam K Adak, Kathie A Grant, Claire Jenkins

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Abstract

Multilocus variable number tandem repeat analysis (MLVA) provides microbiological support for investigations of clusters of cases of infection with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) O157. All confirmed STEC O157 isolated in England and submitted to the Gastrointestinal Bacteria Reference Unit (GBRU) during a six month period were typed using MLVA, with the aim of assessing the impact of this approach on epidemiological investigations. Of 539 cases investigated, 341 (76%) had unique (>2 single locus variants) MLVA profiles, 12% of profiles occurred more than once due to known household transmission and 12% of profiles occurred as part of 41 clusters, 21 of which were previously identified through routine public health investigation of cases. The remaining 20 clusters were not previously detected and STEC enhanced surveillance data for associated cases were retrospectively reviewed for epidemiological links including shared exposures, geography and/or time. Additional evidence of a link between cases was found in twelve clusters. Compared to phage typing, the number of sporadic cases was reduced from 69% to 41% and the diversity index for MLVA was 0.996 versus 0.782 for phage typing. Using MLVA generates more data on the spatial and temporal dispersion of cases, better defining the epidemiology of STEC infection than phage typing. The increased detection of clusters through MLVA typing highlights the challenges to health protection practices, providing a forerunner to the advent of whole genome sequencing as a diagnostic tool.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere85901
JournalPLoS One
Volume9
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jan 2014

Keywords

  • England
  • Escherichia coli O157
  • Genetic Linkage
  • Minisatellite Repeats
  • Multilocus Sequence Typing
  • Phylogeny
  • Public Health

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