Clinical and public health implications of increasing notifications of LEE-negative Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli in England, 2014–2022

Ella V. Rodwell, David R. Greig, Gauri Godbole, Claire Jenkins*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction. Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) belong to a diverse group of gastrointestinal pathogens. The pathogenic potential of STEC is enhanced by the presence of the pathogenicity island called the Locus of Enterocyte Effacement (LEE), including the intimin encoding gene eae. Gap statement. STEC serotypes O128:H2 (Clonal Complex [CC]25), O91:H14 (CC33), and O146:H21 (CC442) are consistently in the top five STEC serotypes isolated from patients reporting gastrointestinal symptoms in England. However, they are eae/LEEnegative and perceived to be a low risk to public health, and we know little about their microbiology and epidemiology. Aim. We analysed clinical outcomes and genome sequencing data linked to patients infected with LEE-negative STEC belonging to CC25 (O128:H2, O21:H2), CC33 (O91:H14) and, and CC442 (O146:H21, O174:H21) in England to assess the risk to public health. Results. There was an almost ten-fold increase between 2014 and 2022 in the detection of all STEC belonging to CC25, CC33 and CC442 (2014 n=38, 2022 n=336), and a total of 1417 cases. There was a higher proportion of female cases (55–70%) and more adults than children, with patients aged between 20–40 and >70 most at risk across the different serotypes. Symptoms were consistent across the three dominant serotypes O91:H14 (CC33), O146:H21 (CC442) and O128:H2 (CC25) (diarrhoea >75%; bloody diarrhoea 25–32%; abdominal pain 64–72%; nausea 37–45%; vomiting 10–24%; and fever 27–30%). Phylogenetic analyses revealed multiple events of acquisition and loss of different stx-encoding prophage. Additional putative virulence genes were identified including iha, agn43 and subA. Conclusions. Continued monitoring and surveillance of LEE-negative STEC infections is essential due to the increasing burden of infectious intestinal disease, and the risk that highly pathogenic strains may emerge following acquisition of the Shiga toxin subtypes associated with the most severe clinical outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number001790
JournalJournal of Medical Microbiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

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© 2024 Crown Copyright.


  • Epidemiology
  • Genome Sequencing
  • Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli
  • non-O157 STEC


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