Scottish E. coli O157/STEC Reference Laboratory


The Scottish E. coli O157/STEC Reference Laboratory (SERL) provides identification and typing of E. coli O157 and other Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), referred from diagnostic labs throughout Scotland. This information is used to guide the clinical management of individual patients and for public health protection purposes.

Scope of Service

This includes the provision of:

  • Confirmation of identity of submitted isolates by biochemical tests, PCR and whole genome sequencing (WGS).
  • Processing of E. coli O157 and other STEC isolates and cultures (including local PCR positive cultures) from animals, food, water or the environment when known or thought to be linked to clinical cases of infection.
  • Screening of faecal samples by PCR and subsequent isolation of E. coli O157 and other STEC (although the PCR component is no longer a funded Reference Laboratory test - see below).
  • Advice and information for the NHS and collaboration with NHS Boards, Public Health Scotland (PHS), United Kingdom Health Security Agency (UKHSA), universities and international agencies.
  • A sample repository to support STEC developments and assessment of new technologies.

Non-O157 STEC and sorbitol fermenting E. coli O157 have also been implicated in gastro-intestinal disease in many European countries, including Scotland. As these organisms may not be detected using routine laboratory procedures, diagnostic laboratory staff should consider the possibility of a non-O157 STEC or a sorbitol fermenting E. coli O157 infection, particularly when clinical suspicion of HUS is high but the sample has tested negative for typical non-sorbitol fermenting E. coli O157.

Contacting SERL

General enquiries should be made to the SERL Administrative Assistant in the first instance:
Cameron Whytock-Ross, 0131 242 1947

Clinical queries should be directed to:
Dr Pota Kalima, 0131 242 6048

Operational, technical and scientific queries should be directed to:
Dr Lesley Allison, 0131 242 6013

If you are unable to make the appropriate contact, please leave a message on the SERL answerphone (0131 242 1947) and your call will be returned as soon as possible.

Complaints should be directed to Dr Lesley Allison in the first instance.

Postal Address

Scottish E. coli O157/STEC Reference Laboratory 
Department of Laboratory Medicine
Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh
51 Little France Crescent
Old Dalkeith Road
Edinburgh EH16 4SA

DX Exchange: Edinburgh 96EH
DX Number: DX6231203

Normal Laboratory Working hours

Monday - Friday: 9am to 5pm

SERL is closed on weekends, and Christmas and New Year public holidays.

Out of Hours Advice

For advice outwith normal working hours, including public holidays, please contact the switchboard (0131 537 1000) and ask for the on-call Consultant Microbiologist.

Urgent Specimens

Urgent samples will be processed out of hours by arrangement. Please contact Lesley Allison at the earliest possible opportunity to discuss. If this is out of hours or at the weekend, please contact the on-call Consultant Microbiologist via the switchboard (0131 537 1000).