DNA-DNA hybridization, cultured cell lines, and transmission electron microscopy were used to study pathogenicity traits of 64 Escherichia coli isolated from apparently healthy chickens from 18 small-scale farms in Thika District, Kenya. A total of 39 (60.9%) isolates hybridized with the eae gene probe for enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC) whereas another 16 (25%) hybridized with the lt and st gene probes and were categorized as enterotoxigenic E. coli. Electron microscopic examination of the eae probe-positive E. coli cultures with the HT-2919A cell line confirmed that they were able to attach intimately and produced effacement typical of EPEC. In addition, negative stain electron microscopy showed that the EPEC strains produced pili that have previously been associated with increased virulence of E. coli infections in chickens. This study has also demonstrated that apparently healthy chickens may carry enteropathogenic E. coli strains.
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Vol. 46 • No. 3