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J Clin Microbiol. Dec 1987; 25(12): 2253–2257.
PMCID: PMC269464

Expression of type 1 fimbriae may be required for persistence of Escherichia coli in the catheterized urinary tract.


Long-term urinary catheterization results in polymicrobial bacteriuria and is complicated by fever, bacteremia, acute pyelonephritis, and death. Escherichia coli is a common urine isolate from catheterized patients and can persist for months. We hypothesized that fimbria-mediated adherence contributes to its persistence. For 1 year, urine specimens were collected from 51 patients greater than or equal to 65 years of age who were catheterized for greater than or equal to 30 days. E. coli was isolated at greater than or equal to 10(5) CFU/ml from 447 (36%) of 1,230 weekly urine specimens from 26 patients. Week 1 isolates from 52 definable episodes were tested for hemagglutination, hybridization with gene sequences from the pil and pap operons, in vitro adherence to catheter material, binding of 125I-labeled Tamm-Horsfall protein, hemolysin and colicin V production, and serum resistance. The proportions of isolates of short (1 week only), medium (2 to 11 weeks) and long (greater than or equal to 12 weeks) episodes of bacteriuria which expressed type 1 fimbriae as assayed by mannose-sensitive hemagglutination were 59, 65, and 92%, respectively. Isolates with the pil operon (the genome for type 1 fimbriae) from episodes lasting greater than 1 week expressed mannose-sensitive hemagglutination more frequently (P = 0.011) than pil-positive isolates from episodes of less than or equal to 1 week. Isolates from episodes of greater than 1 week also bound significantly more Tamm-Horsfall protein than isolates from episodes of less than or equal to 1 week (P = 0.044). Although nearly half of the isolates produced P fimbriae, an important virulence factor for the development of pyelonephritis, no correlation with persistence could be made. Overall, the E. coli isolates expressed traits similar to those of strains that caused cystitis. Type 1 fimbriae appear to be important for the persistence of E. coli in the long-term-catheterized urinary tract.

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