Enzootic enteropathogenic Escherichia coli infection in laboratory rabbits.

Alton G Swennes, Ellen M Buckley, Nicola M A Parry, Carolyn M Madden, Alexis García, Keith M Astrofsky, James G Fox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) is the most important cause of persistent diarrhea in children, particularly in developing countries. Animals serve as pathogenic E. coli reservoirs, and compelling evidence for cross-species EPEC transmission exists. In this report, enzootic EPEC infection associated with up to 10.5% diarrhea-associated morbidity in a large laboratory Dutch Belted rabbit colony was investigated. These rabbits were obtained from a commercial vendor and had acute diarrhea following shipment. Fecal culture of 20 rabbits yielded 48 E. coli isolates, 83% of which were eae positive. Repetitive sequence-based PCR (REP-PCR) and serologic analysis identified a single disease-associated EPEC O145:H2 strain. In sampled rabbits, EPEC-positive culture and the presence of diarrhea were significantly associated. This strain displayed a localized adherence-like HEp-2 cell adherence pattern, as seen in diarrheic human infant EPEC isolates. Treatment was instituted with the fluoroquinolone antibiotic enrofloxacin, to which all isolates were susceptible. Preshipment parenteral enrofloxacin administration reduced diarrhea-associated morbidity 22-fold and mortality 12-fold in subsequent deliveries. This report emphasizes the zoonotic potential of animal EPEC strains and the need for virulence determinant-based screening of E. coli isolates from diarrheic animals.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of clinical microbiology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes


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