Detection and Isolation of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in Beef from Food Markets and Fecal Samples of Dairy Calves in the Peruvian Central Highlands

Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157:H7 is a food and waterborne pathogen with severe public health implications. We report the first-time isolation of this pathogen in the Central Highlands of Peru through standardized culture procedures and polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Escherichia coli strains were cultured from rectal-anal swabs from dairy calves and beef from food markets. The latex agglutination test was used to detect O157 and H7 antigens, and multiplex real-time PCR was carried out to detect virulence-related genes. The STEC O157:H7 strains were isolated from 3.5% (1/28) of beef samples and from 6.0% (3/50) of dairy calves that also carried both eaeA and stx1 genes. Therefore, this pathogen is a potential cause of food/waterborne disease in the region, and its surveillance in both livestock and their products should be improved to characterize the impact of its zoonotic transmission. From 2010 to 2020, E. coli was suspected in 10 outbreaks reported to the Peruvian Ministry of Health. Isolates from future outbreaks should be characterized to assess the burden posed by STEC O157:H7 in Peru.

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