We investigated the prevalence and persistence of Escherichia coli strains in four sewage treatment plants (STPs) in a subtropical region of Queensland, Australia. In all, 264 E. coli strains were typed using a high-resolution biochemical fingerprinting method and grouped into either a single or a common biochemical phenotype (S-BPT and C-BPT, respectively). These strains were also tested for their phylogenetic groups and 12 virulence genes associated with intestinal and extraintestinal E. coli strains. Comparison of BPTs at various treatment stages indicated that certain BPTs were found in two or all treatment stages. These BPTs constituted the highest proportion of E. coli strains in each STP and belonged mainly to phylogenetic group B2 and, to a lesser extent, group D. No virulence genes associated with intestinal E. coli were found among the strains, but 157 (59.5%) strains belonging to 14 C-BPTs carried one or more virulence genes associated with uropathogenic strains. Of these, 120 (76.4%) strains belonged to seven persistent C-BPTs and were found in all four STPs. Our results indicate that certain clonal groups of E. coli with virulence characteristics of uropathogenic strains can survive the treatment processes of STPs. These strains were common to all STPs and constituted the highest proportion of the strains in different treatment tanks of each STP.