Whole genome sequencing improved case ascertainment in an outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157 associated with raw drinking milk

H. Butcher, R. Elson, M. A. Chattaway, C. A. Featherstone, C. Willis, F. Jorgensen, T. J. Dallman, C. Jenkins, J. McLauchlin, C. R. Beck, S. Harrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Five cases of STEC O157 phage type (PT) 21/28 reported consumption of raw cows' drinking milk (RDM) produced at a dairy farm in the South West of England. STEC O157 PT21/28 was isolated from faecal specimens from milking cows on the implicated farm. Whole genome sequencing (WGS) showed that human and cattle isolates were the same strain. Further analysis of WGS data confirmed that sequences of isolates from an additional four cases (who did not report consumption of RDM when first questioned) fell within the same five single nucleotide polymorphism cluster as the initial five cases epidemiologically linked to the consumption of RDM. These four additional cases identified by WGS were investigated further and were, ultimately, associated with the implicated farm. The RDM outbreak strain encoded stx2a, which is associated with increased pathogenicity and severity of symptoms. Further epidemiological analysis showed that 70% of isolates within a wider cluster containing the outbreak strain were from cases residing in, or linked to, the same geographical region of England. During this RDM outbreak, use of WGS improved case ascertainment and provided insights into the evolution of a highly pathogenic clade of STEC O157 PT21/28 stx2a associated with the South West of England.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2812-2823
Number of pages12
JournalEpidemiology and Infection
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Cite this