[Show abstract][Hide abstract]ABSTRACT: A total of 114 avian pathogenic Escherichia coli (APEC) isolates were collected from cases of colisepticaemia occurring in broilers (77) and layers (37) within Ireland. In addition 45 strains isolated from faeces of healthy birds were included for comparison. All isolates were serogrouped, and examined for known virulence factors, mostly by PCR. The O78 serogroup represented 55 and 27% of broiler and layer colisepticaemic isolates respectively. All isolates were positive for curli fimbriae (crl, csg) and negative for afimbrial adhesin (afa). S-fimbrial (sfa) sequences were present in 8.8% of septicaemic isolates and 8.9% of healthy bird isolates. The majority of E. coli from cases of colisepticaemia (97.4%) and healthy bird (95.6%) isolates were positive for aerobactin (aer), and temperature sensitive haemagglutinin (tsh) was similarly detected in high numbers in 93.9 and 93.3%, respectively. In comparison to E. coli isolates from the faeces of healthy birds, a significantly higher percentage of isolates from septicaemic cases possessed Type 1 fimbriae (fimC) and increased serum survival (iss) gene sequences. Forty-seven (41.2%) isolates from septicaemic birds possessed P-fimbriae (pap) gene sequences, compared with only 15.6% from E. coli isolated from healthy birds. Haemolysin (hlyE) sequences were detected in 46.7% of isolates from healthy birds in comparison with 6.1% of septicaemic isolates. Sequences encoding colicin V (cvaC) were detected in 99.1% of septicaemic isolates and 82.2% of isolates from healthy birds. The K1 capsule was only present in two septicaemic isolates, both taken from layers. Motility was detected in 36.8% of E. coli isolated from cases of septicaemia, compared with 93.3% of isolates from healthy birds. These results demonstrate the presence of 11 virulence genes in E. coli isolated from cases of colisepticaemia within Ireland, and indicate the prevalence of iss and fimC.