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Previous work showed that on the basis of O serotyping alone of Escherichia coli, the majority of babies acquired the same O serotype as was found in the stools of their respective mothers. Further characterization of the E. coli by H serotyping, determination of their antibiotic resistance and ability to ferment six carbohydrates showed that in the majority of cases the previous results were confirmed. In a minority of cases this further testing showed that the strains were not identical. In some instances a number of strains isolated from the same pair showed different combinations of the markers used.
Most babies are colonized by the predominant strains of Escherichia coli present in their own mother's faecal flora. Those babies who did not acquire their maternal faecal flora acquired strains of E. coli belonging to a small number of the possible serotypes. Moreover, the same serotypes were found in several babies and other mothers, suggesting spread within the ward. These few strains included some of the O groups which had previously commonly been found as urinary pathogens. These strains may have increased potentialities for colonization of human bowel. Antigenic and biochemical variation was observed among the strains.
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