Background and Objectives: A major challenge to global health initiatives is food safety. In the USA it is estimated that 76 million foodborne illnesses occur each year causing 300,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths. Escherichia coli O157:H7, Campylobacter and Salmonella enterica are among the leading causes of these illnesses including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) with severe sequelae. The severity of illness is in part attributable to the virulent factors encoded by genes present in individual pathogens. Data on the risk associated with infection by foodborne bacterial pathogens in Qatar and the complement of virulent factors in these pathogens is lacking. Cost-effective intervention strategies rely on accurate microbial risk assessment (MRA) of the adverse consequences of exposure and infection with specific pathogens (dose-response relationships), but also according to the complement of virulent factors present in each agent. We carried out molecular studies to investigate the profile of virulent genes of three major foodborne bacterial pathogens isolated from humans in Qatar in support of developing accurate MRA. Methods: Multiplex polymerase chain reactions (PCR) test and PCR restriction fragment length polymorphism were used to examine E. coli O157:H7 isolates for virulent factors. PCR amplification was used to screen C. jejuni and C. coli for the presence of cytolethal distending toxin (cdt) subtypes (cdtA, cdtB, and cdtC). Results: E. coli isolates had a number of virulent factors in common. The enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC) pathotypes were detected in human samples at a rate of 40%, while Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC) pathotype was detected at a much lesser rate. The attaching and effacing E. coli (AEEC) pathotype which included several serotypes (O26, O45, O103, O111, O121 and O145) causing illnesses in 2010 were detected at a rate of 60%. The cdtB gene was detected in 82% and 30% of the C. jejuni and C. coli isolates, respectively. The majority of Salmonella enterica isolates expressed cdtB gene. Conclusions: The data indicate that infection by foodborne bacterial pathogens are common causes of gastroenteritis in Qatar. Implementation of cost-effective control measures for these important foodborne pathogens require intervention strategies that take into account MRA within the context of Qatar.


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