Population and virulence factor dynamics in fecal Escherichia coli from healthy adults consuming weight control diets

A. McOrist, G. Veuilett, M. Vuaran, A. Bird, M. Noakes, D. Topping

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Individual susceptibility to gastrointestinal infection is seen commonly in food poisoning outbreaks, but factors (such as diet) which may modulate this variability are understood poorly. Similarly, factors altering the population dynamics of enteric non-pathogenic Escherichia coli or of pathogenic E. coli containing toxin-signature DNA sequences in the colonic flora of healthy individuals are largely unknown. Feces were collected 4 times over a 12 week period from 41 healthy volunteer adults on a weight control diet (high or low in fiber). E. coli strains were examined by conventional culture followed by PCR for virulence genes stx1, stx2, eae and hlyA, and polymorphic β-glucuronidase. Total E. coli counts ranged from undetectable to 8.75 log10 CFU/g feces and were unaffected by dietary fiber consumption or gender. Total E. coli counts were correlated positively with age (r = 0.401, P < 0.05). Fifty-eight percent (n = 24) of study individuals harboured more than 1 morph of β-glucuronidase, indicating the presence of more than 1 strain of E. coli. Virulence genes were detected in 12 of 41 adults, comprising 10 stx1, 3 stx2, 3 eae, and 0 hlyA, but occurrence was not associated with diet, gender, or age. Factors influencing strain mobility over time did not appear to include diet or gender, while the positive relationship between total E. coli numbers and increasing age suggests that some older individuals are "more permissive" to mobile E. coli, including those with toxin genes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-475
Number of pages9
JournalCanadian Journal of Microbiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Jun 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Diet
  • Escherichia coli
  • Healthy humans
  • Virulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Biotechnology
  • Immunology
  • Microbiology

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