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Extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli in poultry meat products on the Finnish retail market

Ulrike Lyhs1*, Ilona Ikonen2, Tarja Pohjanvirta2, Kaisa Raninen2, Päivikki Perko-Mäkelä3 and Sinikka Pelkonen2

Author Affiliations

1 Ruralia Institute, University of Helsinki, Kampusranta 9C, FI-60320, Seinäjoki, Finland

2 Research and Laboratory Department, Veterinary Bacteriology Research Unit, Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira, Neulaniementie 4, FI-70210, Kuopio, Finland

3 Research and Laboratory Department, Production Animal and Wildlife Health, Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira, PO Box 198, FI-60101, Seinäjoki, Finland

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Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica 2012, 54:64  doi:10.1186/1751-0147-54-64

Published: 16 November 2012



Extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli bacteria (ExPEC) exist as commensals in the human intestines and can infect extraintestinal sites and cause septicemia. The transfer of ExPEC from poultry to humans and the role of poultry meat as a source of ExPEC in human disease have been discussed previously. The aim of the present study was to provide insight into the properties of ExPEC in poultry meat products on the Finnish retail market with special attention to their prevalence, virulence and phylogenetic profiles. Furthermore, the isolates were screened for possible ESBL producers and their resistance to nalidixic acid and ciprofloxacin was tested.


The presence of ExPEC in 219 marinated and non-marinated raw poultry meat products from retail shops has been analyzed. One E. coli strain per product was analyzed further for phylogenetic groups and possession of ten virulence genes associated with ExPEC bacteria (kpsMT K1, ibeA, astA, iss, irp2, papC, iucD, tsh, vat and cva/cv) using PCR methods. The E. coli strains were also screened phenotypically for the production of extended-spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL) and the susceptibility of 48 potential ExPEC isolates for nalidixic acid and ciprofloxacin was tested.


E. coli was isolated from 207 (94.5%) of 219 poultry meat products. The most common phylogenetic groups were D (50.7%), A (37.7%), and B2 (7.7%). Based on virulence factor gene PCR, 23.2% of the strains were classified as ExPEC. Two ExPEC strains (1%) belonged to [O1] B2 svg+ (specific for virulent subgroup) group, which has been implicated in multiple forms of ExPEC disease. None of the ExPEC strains was resistant to ciprofloxacin or cephalosporins. One isolate (2.1%) showed resistance to nalidixic acid.


Potential ExPEC bacteria were found in 22% of marinated and non-marinated poultry meat products on the Finnish retail market and 0.9% were contaminated with E. coli [O1] B2 svg+ group. Marinades did not have an effect on the survival of ExPEC as strains from marinated and non-marinated meat products were equally often classified as ExPEC. Poultry meat products on the Finnish retail market may have zoonotic potential.

Extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli; ExPEC; Poultry meat; Retail market; Antibiotic resistance