In this study, we assessed the pathogenic potential of Escherichia coli associated with a commercial competitive exclusion (CE) product by examining the phenotypic characteristics associated with E. coli virulent for humans and domestic animals. Most E. coli isolates were capable of proliferating in iron-deplete chicken sera. Interestingly, none of the E. coli isolates from the commercial CE product contained the bacterial adhesin Tsh characteristic of avian pathogenic E. coli associated with airsacculitis and colisepticemia. In terms of virulence potential for humans, most E. coli isolates (78%) were sensitive to killing by 12.5% human sera. Because of their sensitivity to human sera, the E. coli in the CE product are not likely to cause a serious systemic infection in humans and, therefore, do not present a risk of causing septicemia in humans. Because these isolates also lack the gene tsh, they are also less likely to cause systemic disease or airsacculitis in poultry than pathogenic strains commonly isolated from diseased birds.
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Vol. 46 • No. 3