A case-control study of verocytotoxigenic Escherichia coli infection in cats with diarrhea.
Smith KA. Kruth S. Hammermueller J. Gyles C. Wilson JB.
Department of Clinical Studies, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph.
The objectives of this study were to determine the prevalence of enteric verocytotoxigenic E. coli (VTEC) infection in a population of cats in Ontario, and to determine whether an association exists between the presence of VTEC and feline diarrhea. Fecal samples from 179 cats, representing 113 cats with diarrhea and 66 cats with normal feces, were cultured for E. coli. The fecal cultures were screened for verocytotoxin activity with a Vero cell assay. Confirmation of the presence of verocytotoxin (VT) genes was done with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification; the frequency of occurrence of the genes for generic VT, VT1, and VT2 was determined. VTEC-positive samples were defined as those that demonstrated cytotoxicity on the Vero cell assay and yielded E. coli possessing one or more of the VT genes. All VTEC-positive isolates were serotyped. The overall prevalence of enteric VTEC infection in the cats was 12.3% (22/179). Statistical analysis of the case-control data showed no significant association between VTEC infection and diarrheal illness. The majority of the cats with VT-positive E. coli were positive for the presence of the generic VT, rather than for VT1 or VT2; it is therefore possible that a novel verocytotoxin gene may exist in E. coli isolated from cats. Eight VTEC strains were identified by serotyping; 4 of these serotypes have previously been isolated from humans, and 2 from cattle, suggesting that cats may be capable of acting as reservoirs for human and bovine VTEC serotypes.