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Infect Immun. Dec 1992; 60(12): 5017–5024.
PMCID: PMC258271

Pathogenesis of Providencia alcalifaciens-induced diarrhea.


Providencia alcalifaciens is a member of the family Enterobacteriaceae. There are reports that P. alcalifaciens can cause diarrhea, but the mechanism(s) by which it causes diarrhea is known. We studied P. alcalifaciens isolated from a child and two adults with diarrhea for enteropathogenicity. The three isolates did not exhibit any characteristic adherence to cultured HEp-2 cell monolayers, and they did not produce enterotoxins, cytotoxins, or keratoconjunctivitis in the Sereny test. Two isolates invaded cultured HEp-2 cell monolayers, producing localized bacterial clusters and actin condensation. The pattern of actin condensation was different from that produced by enteropathogenic Escherichia coli but similar to that produced by Shigella flexneri. Invasion and actin condensation were poor for the third isolate. Histology of adult rabbit small intestinal loops inoculated with all three isolates revealed bacterial attachment to, penetration of, and microulcer formation on the surface epithelium and hyperemia, edema, and polymorphonuclear cell infiltration of lamina propria. All the isolates produced diarrhea in rabbits with removable intestinal ties, and some of these rabbits developed hindlimb paralysis. Intestinal histology of the rabbits with removable intestinal ties which developed diarrhea showed changes similar to that in adult rabbits on which ileal loop assays had been performed. Transmission electron microscopy of intestinal tissues also confirmed tissue penetration by the isolates. Nerve tissue histology of two rabbits that developed hindlimb paralysis showed focal mononuclear cell infiltration around peripheral nerve sheaths. It is concluded that some strains of P. alcalifaciens are enteropathogenic and that they cause diarrhea by invading the intestinal mucosal epithelium. However, the relevance to human disease of the hindlimb paralysis observed in this animal model is not clear.

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