Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) isolated from fecal samples of African dromedary camels

Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) cause gastrointestinal illnesses including non-bloody or bloody diarrhoea, haemorrhagic colitis (HC), and the haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). To investigate the occurrence of STEC among grazing dromedaries from Kenya, E. coli isolated from fecal matter collected from 163 dromedaries on a large ranch were screened for the presence of stx1 and stx2. STEC strains were isolated and serotyped. Isolates were subjected to PCR for the subtyping of stx genes and for the detection of eae and ehx. In addition, whole genome sequencing (WGS) was carried out to detect further virulence genes and to determine the multilocus sequence types (MLST). Antimicrobial resistance profiles were determined by disk diffusion. STEC was isolated from 20 (12.3%) of the fecal samples. Thereof, nine (45%) isolates were STEC O156:H25, three (15%) isolates typed STEC O43:H2. The remaining isolates occurred as single serotypes or were O non-typeable. Eleven (55%) of the isolates harboured stx2a, nine (45%) eae, and 14 (70%) ehx, respectively. WGS revealed the presence of iss in 16 (80%), subAB in four (20%) and astA in two (10%) of the isolates, Furthermore, espA, tccP, nleA, nleB, tccP, and tir were found exclusively among STEC O156:H25. Eleven different sequence types (ST) were detected. The most prominent was ST300/ST5343, which comprised STEC O156:H25. All STEC isolates were pan susceptible to a panel of 16 antimicrobial agents. Overall, the results indicate that dromedary camels in Kenya may be reservoirs of STEC, including serotypes possessing virulence markers associated to disease in humans, such as STEC O156:H25. STEC in camels may represent a health hazard for humans with close contact to camels or to consumers of camel derived foodstuffs, such as unpasteurised camel milk.