Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Department of



Stephen D. Kachman

Date of this Version



Published in INFECTION AND IMMUNITY, July 2008, p. 3141–3149.


In swine, the most common and severe enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) infections are caused by strains that express K88 (F4)+ fimbriae, heat-labile enterotoxin (LT), heat-stable enterotoxin b (STb), and enteroaggregative E. coli heat-stable toxin 1. Previous studies based on a design that involved enterotoxin genes cloned into a nontoxigenic fimbriated strain have suggested that LT but not STb plays an important role in dehydrating diarrheal disease in piglets study, we compared these two toxins in terms of importance for piglets >1 week old with a study design that involved construction of isogenic single- and double-deletion mutants and inoculation of 9-day-old F4ac receptor-positive gnotobiotic piglets. Based on the postinoculation percent weight change per h and serum bicarbonate concentrations, the virulence of the STb- mutant (ΔestB) did not significantly differ from that of the parent. However, deletion of the LT genes (ΔeltAB) in the STb- mutant resulted in a complete abrogation of weight loss, dehydration, and metabolic acidosis in inoculated pigs, and LT complementation restored the virulence of this strain. These results support the hypothesis that LT is a more significant contributor than STb to the virulence of F4+ ETEC infections in young F4ac receptor-positive pigs less than 2 weeks old. However, in contrast to previous studies with gnotobiotic piglets, there was no evidence that the expression of LT enhanced the ability of the F4+ ETEC strain to colonize the small intestine.