Incidence of heat-labile enterotoxin-producing Escherichia coli detected by means of polymerase chain reaction amplification

Winterbach R. ; Van Helden P.D. ; Janse Van Rensburg J. ; Victor T. (1994)

Article

The original publication is available at http://www.samj.org.za

Article

Diarrhoea can be caused by many different organisms, some of which are notoriously difficult to identify. One of these is enterotoxin-producing Escherichia coli. Recently a new diagnostic technique that uses polymerase chain reaction DNA amplification was developed for detection of the 'A' subunit of the labile enterotoxin-producing E. coli gene. This technique was used to evaluate the incidence of heat-labile (LT+) enterotoxin-producing E. coli in the causation of diarrhoea. The results from this study showed that LT+ E. coli is a cause of diarrhoea in the western Cape and that 5,3% of non-diagnosed diarrhoea patients in Tygerberg Hospital were infected with this pathogen. This represented less than 1% of the total number of cases of diarrhoea investigated in this hospital. The peak coincides with the wetter months in this locality and the infection rate is lower than that reported in most other countries. Given the low incidence of occurrence of this organism we do not recommend routine implementation of the diagnostic procedure. However, this test may be useful at times, e.g. to ascertain the source of a diarrhoea epidemic.

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