Scientific Opinion on VTEC-seropathotype and scientific criteria regarding pathogenicity assessment

VTEC, virulence factors, serogroup, seropathotype, detection, isolation, identification
First published in the EFSA Journal
9 April 2013
7 March 2013
Scientific Opinion


During 2007-2010, 13 545 confirmed human VTEC infections and 777 haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) cases were reported in the EU; isolates from 85 % of cases were not fully serotyped and therefore could not be classified using the Karmali seropathotype concept. Seropathotype group D covered 5 % of isolates from fully serotyped cases; 14 cases (0.7 %) belonged to seropathotype group E, defined by Karmali et al. (2003) as non-human only. Isolates from around 27 % of cases could not be assigned. There were no HUS cases reported for the serotypes in groups D and E but 17 HUS cases could not be assigned. The health outcome was reported for only a fraction of confirmed cases. About 64 % of patients presented with only diarrhoea; VTEC infection resulted in HUS in around 10 % of cases. The new ISO/TS 13136:2012 standard improves the detection of VTEC in food. An alternative concept based on the detection of verocytotoxins alone or genes encoding such verocytotoxins does not provide a sound scientific basis on which to assess risk to the consumer because there is no single or combination of marker(s) that fully define a ‘pathogenic’ VTEC. Strains positive for verocytotoxin 2 gene(vtx2)- and eae (intimin production)- or [aaiC (secreted protein of EAEC) plus aggR (plasmid-encoded regulator)] genes are associated with higher risk of more severe illness than other virulence gene combinations. The 2011 O104:H4 outbreak demonstrated the difficulty of predicting the emergence of ‘new’ pathogenic VTEC types by screening only for the eae gene or by focusing on a restricted panel of serogroups. A molecular approach utilising genes encoding virulence characteristics additional to the presence of vtx genes has been proposed.

Panel members at the time of adoption

Olivier Andreoletti, Dorte Lau Baggesen, Declan Bolton, Patrick Butaye, Paul Cook, Robert Davies, Pablo S. Fernandez Escamez, John Griffin, Tine Hald, Arie Havelaar, Kostas Koutsoumanis, Roland Lindqvist, James McLauchlin, Truls Nesbakken, Miguel Prieto Maradona, Antonia Ricci, Giuseppe Ru, Moez Sanaa, Marion Simmons, John Sofos and John Threlfall
Panel on Biological Hazards
biohaz [at]
EFSA Journal 2013;11(4):3138
Question Number
On request from
Austrian Federal Ministry of Health