Research – The epidemiology of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli serogroup O157 in England, 2009–2019

Cambridge Org

Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) serogroup O157 is a zoonotic, foodborne gastrointestinal pathogen of major public health concern. We describe the epidemiology of STEC O157 infection in England by exploring the microbiological and clinical characteristics, the demographic and geographical distribution of cases, and examining changes in environmental exposures over 11 years of enhanced surveillance. Enhanced surveillance data including microbiological subtyping, clinical presentations and exposures were extracted for all cases resident in England with evidence of STEC O157 infection, either due to faecal culture or serology detection. Incidence rates were calculated based on mid-year population estimates from the Office of National Statistics (ONS). Demographics, geography, severity and environmental exposures were compared across the time periods 2009–2014 and 2015–2019. The number of cases reported to national surveillance decreased, with the mean cases per year dropping from 887 for the period 2009–2014 to 595 for the period 2015–2019. The decline in STEC O157 infections appears to be mirrored by the decrease in cases infected with phage type 21/28. Although the percentage of cases that developed HUS decreased, the percentage of cases reporting bloody diarrhoea and hospitalisation remained stable. The number of outbreaks declined over time, although more refined typing methods linked more cases to each outbreak. Integration of epidemiological data with microbiological typing data is essential to understanding the changes in the burden of STEC infection, assessment of the risks to public health, and the prediction and mitigation of emerging threats.

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