Laboratory investigation of a multistate food-borne outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 by using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis and phage typing.
Two hundred thirty-three isolates of Escherichia coli O157:H7 were analyzed by both pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and bacteriophage typing. All 26 isolates from persons whose illness was associated with a recent multistate outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections linked to the consumption of undercooked hamburgers and all 27 isolates from incriminated lots of hamburger meat had the same phage type and the same PFGE pattern. Twenty-five of 74 E. coli O157:H7 isolates from Washington State and 10 of 27 isolates from other states obtained during the 6 months before the outbreak had the same phage type as the outbreak strain, but only 1 isolate had the same PFGE pattern. PFGE thus appeared to be a more sensitive method than bacteriophage typing for distinguishing outbreak and non-outbreak-related strains. The PFGE patterns of seven preoutbreak sporadic isolates and five sporadic isolates from the outbreak period differed from that of the outbreak strain by a single band, making it difficult to identify these isolates as outbreak or non-outbreak related. Phage typing and PFGE with additional enzymes were helpful in resolving this problem. While not as sensitive as PFGE, phage typing was helpful in interpreting PFGE data and could have been used as a simple, rapid screen to eliminate the need for performing PFGE on unrelated isolates. Images