The aim of this study was to detect VT1, VT2 and eaeA genes and to determine the frequency of these genes in Escherichia coli 0 157 and O157:H7 strains isolated from cattle, cattle carcasses and environmental samples of the 5 abattoirs located in Istanbul, Turkey. For this, the presence of VT1, VT2 and eaeA genes in 26 strains of E. coli 01 57:H7 and 6 strains of O157 was investigated by multiplex-PCR. The results have shown that eaeA gene was detected in all O157 and O157:H7 strains tested. Both VT2 and eaeA genes were detected in 4 (80%) of 5 strains of E. coli 0 157 and eaeA alone in I strain of O157. In 27 strains of O157:H7, 5 (18.5%) strains were found to be positive for VT1, VT2 and eaeA genes, 19 (70.3%) strains for both VT2 and eaeA and, 3 (11.1%) strains for only eaeA gene. Either VT1 alone or VT2 alone was not detected in any strains tested. eaeA gene alone in 2 strains, VT2-eaeA genes in 9 strains and VT1-VT2-eaeA genes in 2 strains were detected in 13 of E. coli O157:H7 strains isolated from cattle. eaeA alone in I strain, VT2-eaeA genes in 5 strains and VT1-VT2-eaeA genes in 2 strains were detected in 8 of E. coli O157:H7 strains isolated from carcasses. VT2-eaeA genes in 5 strains (isolated from hands, apron, knife and floor) and VT1-VT2-eaeA genes in I strain (isolated from knife) were also detected in 6 of E. coli O157:H7 strains isolated from environmental samples. This study reveals that most of the strains are found to be toxigenic and it is most likely that strains isolated from carcasses and abattoir environment originated front cattle feces. Therefore, HACCP systems are necessary from farm to table especially in the abattoirs to prevent contamination of meat and abattoir environment with intestinal content. (C) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.