Use of antibody responses against locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE)-encoded antigens to monitor enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli infections on cattle farms.

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2013 Jun;79(12):3677-83.


* Equal contribution


1Department of Veterinary Public Health and Food Safety, Laboratory of Hygiene and Technology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Salisburylaan 133, 9820 Merelbeke, Belgium; 2Laboratory of Immunology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Salisburylaan 133, 9820 Merelbeke, Belgium; 3Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research (ILVO), Technology and Food Science Unit – Food Safety, Brusselsesteenweg 370, 9090 Melle, Belgium;4Department of Molecular Biotechnology, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University, Coupure 653, 9000 Gent, Belgium 


Running title: EHEC type III secretion system antibodies in cattle

Section: Long-Form papers

Current address of Maria-Adelheid Joris: AS4 – Waterstraat 4 – 9160 Lokeren – België

# Corresponding author: Eric Cox, DVM, PhD, Prof.

Ghent University, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Salisburylaan 133, 9820 Merelbeke (Belgium), Phone +32 9 264 73 96; Fax +32 2647778, E-mail address:


Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) is a significant zoonotic pathogen causing severe disease associated with watery and bloody diarrhea, hemorrhagic colitis and the hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) in humans. Infections are frequently associated with contact with EHEC contaminated ruminant faeces. Natural as well as experimental infection of cattle induces serum antibodies against the LEE encoded proteins intimin, EspA, EspB, Tir and the Shiga toxins Stx1 and Stx2, although the latter are poorly immunogenic in cattle. We determined if antibodies and/or the kinetics of antibody responses against intimin, Tir, EspA and/or EspB might possibly be used for monitoring EHEC infections in beef cattle herds in order to reduce carcass contamination at slaughter. We examined the presence of serum antibodies against recombinant O157:H7 E. coli intimin EspA, EspB and Tir during a cross-sectional study on 12 cattle farms and during a longitudinal time-course study on 2 EHEC positive cattle farms. We searched for a possible correlation between intimin, Tir, EspA and/or EspB antibodies and fecal excretion of EHEC O157, O145, O111, O103 or O26 seropathotypes. Results indicated that serum antibody responses against EspB and EspA might be useful for first-line screening at herd level for EHEC O157, O26 and most likely also for EHEC O103 infections. However, antibody responses against EspB are of less use for monitoring individual animals, as some EHEC shedding animals did not show antibody responses and as serum antibody responses to EspB could persist for several months even when shedding had ceased.

Sarah Wambacq--1

Fig. 1

This figure shows the antibody levels against type III secretion system proteins (intimin, Tir, EspA and EspB) of E. coli O157 on 12 cattle farms as boxplots.

Horizontal lines within the boxes mark the median. Upper and lower horizontal box lines represent 25th and 75th percentiles. Whiskers above and below the box indicate 95th and 5th percentiles. Outliers are marked as dots. The horizontal line within the figure represents the cutoff value. It can be seen that OD-values for EspB- and EspA specific antibodies remained below the cutoff value on 3 farms. These were the only farms where no EHEC could be isolated.


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