Virology, Nebraska Center for


Date of this Version



Alharbi, M.G.; Al-Hindi, R.R.; Esmael, A.; Alotibi, I.A.; Azhari, S.A.; Alseghayer, M.S.; Teklemariam, A.D. The “Big Six”: Hidden Emerging Foodborne Bacterial Pathogens. Trop. Med. Infect. Dis. 2022, 7, 356. 10.3390/tropicalmed7110356


Open access.


Non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) are emerging serogroups that often result in diseases ranging from diarrhea to severe hemorrhagic colitis in humans. The most common non-O157 STEC are O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, and O145. These serogroups are known by the name “big six” because they cause severe illness and death in humans and the United States Department of Agriculture declared these serogroups as food contaminants. The lack of fast and efficient diagnostic methods exacerbates the public impact of the disease caused by these serogroups. Numerous outbreaks have been reported globally and most of these outbreaks were caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water as well as direct contact with reservoirs. Livestock harbor a variety of non-O157 STEC serovars that can contaminate meat and dairy products, or water sources when used for irrigation. Hence, effective control and prevention approaches are required to safeguard the public from infections. This review addresses the disease characteristics, reservoirs, the source of infections, the transmission of the disease, and major outbreaks associated with the six serogroups (“big six”) of non-O157 STEC encountered all over the globe