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Virulence. 2012 May 1;3(3):241-2. doi: 10.4161/viru.20588. Epub 2012 May 1.

Biofilm formation and Klebsiella pneumoniae liver abscess: true, true and unrelated?

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  • Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System, San Diego, CA, USA. jfierer@ucsd.edu


Klebsiella pneumoniae liver abscess is an emerging infectious disease. This syndrome was unknown before the late 1980s when it was first recognized in Taiwan. Over the next two decades it increased in prevalence in Taiwan and was reported from other nations of East Asia. It was then that the rest of the world became aware of this interesting new syndrome. The disease is no longer confined to East Asia, and is now an emerging infection in North America and Europe. How did this come about? We now understand some of the genetic changes that turn commensal E. coli into extra-intestinal pathogens. K pneumoniae is another member of the Enterobacteriaceae that is usually normal flora in the gut, but we know relatively little about how it evolved into an invasive pathogen capable of causing abscesses in normal livers. The phenotype of the liver-invasive strains is hyperviscosity of the polysaccharide capsules, but while the gene that determines that property is required it is not sufficient to create the pathogen, and more research is needed to discover the other virulence genes, and thus to potentially target them therapeutically.

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