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J Clin Microbiol. Aug 1993; 31(8): 2031–2037.
PMCID: PMC265691

Escherichia coli strains involved in diarrhea in France: high prevalence and heterogeneity of diffusely adhering strains.


Two hundred sixty-two strains of Escherichia coli isolated from diarrheal stool specimens from infants, children, and adults hospitalized in Clermont-Ferrand, France, were studied to classify them in the previously described pathogenic groups of E. coli involved in diarrheal diseases. A total of 1.5% of them belonged to the enterotoxigenic E. coli pathotype, but none belonged to the enteroinvasive E. coli, enterohemorrhagic E. coli, or enteropathogenic E. coli pathotypes. Seventeen strains (6.5%) exhibited an aggregative pattern of adhesion to HEp-2 cells (EAggEC pathotype), but of these, three (17.6%) did not hybridize with the EAggEC DNA probe. Most of the strains involved in diarrhea belonged to the diffusely adhering E. coli group; 100 strains (38.2%) exhibited a diffuse adhesion (DA) to HEp-2 cells. Only eight strains (8.9%) from controls diffusely adhered to HEp-2 cells. The highly significant difference (P < 0.0001) between DA strains from patients and from controls suggests that the diffusely adhering E. coli strains should be considered pathogens. Only 33 of them (33%) hybridized with the previously described DA DNA probe, and only 2 (2%) hybridized with the AIDA DNA probe. Four different major proteins were observed in the bacterial surface extracts of the 33 strains positive with the DA DNA probe. In addition, 16 strains that diffusely adhered to HEp-2 cells induced a cytotoxic effect on HEp-2 cells that was characterized by pyknosis and lysis of the cytoplasmic membrane. This cytotoxic effect was correlated with the synthesis of a hemolysin. The genes involved in diffuse adhesion to HEp-2 cells were located on conjugative R plasmids in strains that did not hybridize with the DA or AIDA DNA probes.

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