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Microbiol Rev. 1989 Jun;53(2):210-30.

Common themes in microbial pathogenicity.


A bacterial pathogen is a highly adapted microorganism which has the capacity to cause disease. The mechanisms used by pathogenic bacteria to cause infection and disease usually include an interactive group of virulence determinants, sometimes coregulated, which are suited for the interaction of a particular microorganism with a specific host. Because pathogens must overcome similar host barriers, common themes in microbial pathogenesis have evolved. However, these mechanisms are diverse between species and not necessarily conserved; instead, convergent evolution has developed several different mechanisms to overcome host barriers. The success of a bacterial pathogen can be measured by the degree with which it replicates after entering the host and reaching its specific niche. Successful microbial infection reflects persistence within a host and avoidance or neutralization of the specific and nonspecific defense mechanisms of the host. The degree of success of a pathogen is dependent upon the status of the host. As pathogens pass through a host, they are exposed to new environments. Highly adapted pathogenic organisms have developed biochemical sensors exquisitely designed to measure and respond to such environmental stimuli and accordingly to regulate a cascade of virulence determinants essential for life within the host. The pathogenic state is the product of dynamic selective pressures on microbial populations.

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