A cluster of four cases of haemolytic uraemic syndrome in children occurred in Northern Bohemia, Czech Republic, between 15 June and 7 July, 1995. All the cases had significantly elevated titres of anti-O157 lipopolysaccharide (LPS) antibodies as detected by the indirect haemagglutination assay. All but one of them had drunk unpasteurized goat's milk from the same farm within the week before the disease. Evidence of E. coli O157 infection was subsequently found in 5 of 15 regular drinkers of the farm's raw goat's milk; four of them were asymptomatic, 1 had mild diarrhoea at the end of June. Verocytotoxin 2-producing E. coli O157[ratio ]H7 strains of phage type 2 and of identical pulsed-field gel electrophoresis patterns were isolated from 1 of 2 farm goats and from 1 of the asymptomatic goat's milk drinkers. The frequency of anti-O157 LPS antibodies found among regular drinkers of the farm's raw goat's milk (33%; 5 of 15) was significantly higher than that found in control population (0%; none of 45) (P=0·0005; Fisher's exact test). Our findings indicate that goats may be a reservoir of E. coli O157[ratio ]H7 and a source of the infection for humans; raw goat's milk may serve as a vehicle of the pathogen transmission.
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