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At the beginning of 2016, an increase in paediatric haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) cases was observed in Romania. The microbiological investigations allowed isolation of Shiga toxin-producing (STEC) O26 as the causative agent from most cases. An enhanced national surveillance of HUS and severe diarrhoea was established across the country following the identification of the first cases and was carried out until August 2016. A total of 15 strains were isolated from 10 HUS and five diarrhoea cases. Strains were characterised by virulence markers (i.e. type/subtype, , genes), phylogroup, genetic relatedness and clonality using PCR-based assays, PFGE and multilocus sequence typing (MLST). The first six strains were further characterised by whole genome sequencing (WGS). Five PCR-defined genotypes were distinguished. All strains from HUS cases harboured and , with or without , while strains from diarrhoea cases carried exclusively and genes. PFGE resolved strains into multiple pulsotypes, compatible with a certain geographic segregation of the cases, and strains were assigned to phylogroup B1 and sequence type (ST) 21. WGS confirmed the results of conventional molecular methods, brought evidence of O26:H11 serotype, and complemented the virulence profiles. This first description of STEC O26 strains from cases in Romania showed that the isolates belonged to a diverse population. The virulence content of most strains highlighted a high risk for severe outcome in infected patients. Improving the national surveillance strategy for STEC infections in Romania needs to be further considered.


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