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ABSTRACT: Clinical laboratory practices affect patient care and disease surveillance. It is recommended that laboratories routinely use both culture for Escherichia coli O157 and a method that detects Shiga toxins (Stx) to identify all Stx-producing E. coli (STEC) and that labs send broths or isolates to a public health laboratory. In 2007, we surveyed laboratories serving Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network sites that performed on-site enteric disease diagnostic testing to determine their culture and nonculture-based testing practices for STEC identification. Our goals were to measure changes over time in laboratory practices and to compare reported practices with published recommendations. Overall, 89% of laboratories used only culture-based methods, 7% used only Stx enzyme immunoassay (EIA), and 4% used both Stx EIA and culture-based methods. Only 2% of laboratories reported simultaneous culture for O157 STEC and use of Stx EIA. The proportion that ever used Stx EIA increased from 6% in 2003 to 11% in 2007. The proportion that routinely tested all specimens with at least one method was 66% in 2003 versus 71% in 2007. Reference laboratories were less likely than others to test all specimens routinely by one or more of these methods (48% vs. 73%, p=0.03). As of 2007, most laboratories complied with recommendations for O157 STEC testing by culture but not with recommendations for detection of non-O157 STEC. The proportion of laboratories that culture stools for O157 STEC has changed little since 2003, whereas testing for Stx has increased.
Foodborne Pathogens and Disease 12/2010; 8(4):555-60. DOI:10.1089/fpd.2010.0764