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Infect Immun. 1989 Feb;57(2):303-13.

Molecular epidemiology of adhesin and hemolysin virulence factors among uropathogenic Escherichia coli.

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  • 1Maxwell Finland Laboratory for Infectious Diseases, Boston University School of Medicine, Massachusetts 02118.


The pap, prs, pil, and hly operons of the pyelonephritic Escherichia coli isolate J96 code for the expression of P, F, and type 1 adhesins and the production of hemolysin, respectively; the afaI operon of the pyelonephritic E. coli KS52 encodes an X adhesin. Using different segments of these operons as probes, colony hybridizations were performed on 97 E. coli urinary tract and 40 fecal clinical isolates to determine (i) the presence in the infecting bacteria of nucleotide sequences related to virulence operons, and (ii) the phenotypic properties associated with such sequences. Coexpression of P and F adhesins encoded by pap-related sequences was detected more frequently among isolates from patients with pyelonephritis (32 of 49, 65%) than among those with cystitis (11 of 48, 23%; P less than 0.0001) or from fecal specimens (6 of 40, 15%; P less than 0.0001). Therefore, the expression of both adhesins appears to be critical in the colonization of the upper urinary tract. In contrast, afaI-related sequences were detected significantly more frequently among isolates from patients with cystitis, suggesting that this class of X adhesin may have a role in lower urinary tract infections. Urinary tract isolates differed from fecal isolates by a low incidence of type 1 adhesin expression among pil probe-positive isolates. hly-related sequences were only detected in pap probe-positive isolates. The frequency of hemolysin production among pap probe-positive isolates was not associated with a particular pattern of infection. The distribution of these virulence factors was similar in the presence or absence of reflux, indicating that structural abnormalities of the urinary tract did not facilitate colonization by adhesin-negative isolates.

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