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Clin Microbiol Rev. 2002 Jan;15(1):125-44.

Moraxella catarrhalis: from emerging to established pathogen.

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  • 1Department of Medical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases, Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam EMCR, 3015 GD Rotterdam, The Netherlands.


Moraxella catarrhalis (formerly known as Branhamella catarrhalis) has emerged as a significant bacterial pathogen of humans over the past two decades. During this period, microbiological and molecular diagnostic techniques have been developed and improved for M. catarrhalis, allowing the adequate determination and taxonomic positioning of this pathogen. Over the same period, studies have revealed its involvement in respiratory (e.g., sinusitis, otitis media, bronchitis, and pneumonia) and ocular infections in children and in laryngitis, bronchitis, and pneumonia in adults. The development of (molecular) epidemiological tools has enabled the national and international distribution of M. catarrhalis strains to be established, and has allowed the monitoring of nosocomial infections and the dynamics of carriage. Indeed, such monitoring has revealed an increasing number of B-lactamase-positive M. catarrhalis isolates (now well above 90%), underscoring the pathogenic potential of this organism. Although a number of putative M. catarrhalis virulence factors have been identified and described in detail, their relationship to actual bacterial adhesion, invasion, complement resistance, etc. (and ultimately their role in infection and immunity), has been established in a only few cases. In the past 10 years, various animal models for the study of M. catarrhalis pathogenicity have been described, although not all of these models are equally suitable for the study of human infection. Techniques involving the molecular manipulation of M. catarrhalis genes and antigens are also advancing our knowledge of the host response to and pathogenesis of this bacterial species in humans, as well as providing insights into possible vaccine candidates. This review aims to outline our current knowledge of M. catarrhalis, an organism that has evolved from an emerging to a well-established human pathogen.

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