U.S. Department of Defense


Date of this Version



The Journal of Infectious Diseases (1982), 146(6), p. 763-769


Strains of Escherichia coli previously implicated or proven to be causes of diarrhea were examined for production of a toxin similar to that of Shigella dysenteriae type 1 (Shiga). Organisms grown in an iron-depleted broth were lysed by pressure disruption followed by ultracentrifugation. Saline-dialyzed extracts were tested for cytotoxic effects on HeLa cells that were neutralizable with antiserum to Shiga toxin. Among the 13 E. coli strains so analyzed, 11 made a Shiga-like cytotoxin in levels ranging from trace (two avirulent isolates) to amounts equivalent to S. dysenteriae type 1 (two noninvasive strains that did not make E. coli heat-labile or -stable enterotoxins but were isolated from infants with diarrhea). As with extracts of Shiga toxin, lysates of these E. coli strains that produced high levels of Shiga-like toxin were enterotoxic for rabbits, paralytic and lethal for mice, and inhibited protein synthesis in HeLa cells. Thus, these data suggest that Shiga-like toxin may be another heretofore undiscovered factor in the pathogenesis of diarrhea caused by some E. coli strains.