New microbes and new infections vol:2 issue:5 pages:138-43
In 2011, a large outbreak of infections caused by Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O104:H4 occurred in Germany. This exceptionally virulent strain combined virulence factors of enteroaggregative E. coli (EAggEC) and STEC. After the outbreak only a few sporadic cases of infection with this rare serotype were reported, most of which were related to travel to the Middle East or North Africa. Here we describe two cases of enteroaggregative STEC (Agg-STEC) O104:H4 infection that occurred in Belgium in 2012 and 2013 respectively. In both cases travel in a Mediterranean country preceded the infection. The first strain was isolated from the stool of a 42-year-old woman presenting bloody diarrhoea, who had travelled to Tunisia the week before. The second case involves a 14-year-old girl who, upon her return from Turkey to Belgium, suffered from an episode of bloody diarrhoea and haemolytic uraemic syndrome. Extended typing of the isolates with pulsed field gel electrophoresis revealed that the strains were closely related, though not exactly the same as the 2011 outbreak strain. This report supports the previously made hypothesis that Agg-STEC has a human reservoir and might be imported by travellers coming from an area where the pathogen is endemic. Furthermore, it emphasizes the concern that these bacteria may cause future outbreaks as evenly virulent O104:H4 isolates seem to be widespread.