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 and public health laboratories 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. The PCR screening component is no longer a funded Reference Laboratory test.
  • 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

E-mail or Phone

For general enquiries please e-mail our team at

If you have any urgent requests, please call 0131-242-1947 and one of our team will triage your call


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



If you DX our address is:

DX Number: DX6231203
DX Exchange: Edinburgh 96EH


Normal Laboratory Working hours

Our laboratory is available Monday to Friday 09:00 to 17:00.

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


Out of Hours Advice

If you are a healthcare professional and require advice out with our normal working hours, please contact NHS Lothian Switchboard (0131-537-1000) and ask for the on-call Consultant Microbiologist.


Urgent Specimens

Urgent specimens will be only be processed out of hours by prior arrangement. Please contact Lesley Allison during our working hours at the earliest possible opportunity to discuss.