[en] A collection of 1601 extraintestinal and intestinal Escherichia coli isolated from chickens, turkeys and ducks. in Belgium, France and Spain, was hybridised with gene probes specific for fimbrial and afimbrial adhesins (F17, F18, S (Sfa/F1C), Bfp, Afa, Cs31A, Intimin (Eae), Aida-1) of intestinal, urinary and invasive E. coli of mammals and with a probe specific for the P (Pap/Prs) fimbrial adhesin of urinary and invasive E. coli of mammals and birds. Three hundred and eighty-three strains (23.9%) were P-positive, 76 strains (4.8%) were Afa-positive, 75 strains (4.7%) were F17-positive, 67 strains (4.2%) were S-positive, 23 (1.4%) were Intimin-positive. and all were F18-, Cs31A-, Aidal- and Bfp-negative. The 75 F17-positive strains harboured different major subunit A-encoding gene variants, but the f17Ac variant was the most frequent (52 strains, 69,3%) and seven strains (9.3%) were not typeable. The f17G gene variant coding for the GII adhesin was the most frequent (56 strains, 75.0%), whereas the f17GI gene variant was present in four strains (5%) and 15 strains (20.0%) were not typeable. All Afa-positive strains harboured the afa-8 variant. The 23 Intimin-positive E. coli tested positive for the beta -variant (16 strains; 69.6%) or for the gamma -variant (seven strains;, 30.4%) of the eae gene. Chicken and turkey E. coli were more frequently probe-positive (43.6 and 43.1 %, respectively) than duck E. coli 31.5%) and extraintestinal E. coli were also more frequently probe-positive (48.4%) than intestinal strains (18.5%). Different combinations of probe positive hybridisation results were observed in 72 of the 540 probe-positive E. coli (13.3%). The most frequent combinations were between AfaE-8 and F17 probes (47 strains; 8.7%) and between P and S probes (13 strains. 2.4%). Although f17- and afa-8-related DNA sequences can be plasmid-located in mammalian E. coli. they were not in avian E. coli. Besides the P fimbrial adhesin, F17 and S fimbrial and Afa-VIII and Intimin afimbrial adhesins may thus represent colonisation factors of avian pathogenic E. coli. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.