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Semin Thromb Hemost. 2001 Jun;27(3):207-13.

The role of virulence factors in enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC)--associated hemolytic-uremic syndrome.

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Institut für Hygiene, Universität Münster, Germany.


Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) are the most common cause of postdiarrheal hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). The most important EHEC serotype implicated worldwide is O157:H7. However, several so-called non-O157 EHEC serotypes have emerged. After a mean incubation period of 3 days, patients develop watery diarrhea accompanied by cramping abdominal pain. During the next days, in most patients watery diarrhea changes to bloody diarrhea. One week after the onset of diarrhea, in about 15% of infected patients under 10 years of age EHEC infection results in a systemic complication, HUS. Shiga toxins (Stxs) are considered the major virulence factors of EHEC involved in the pathogenesis of HUS. It is generally believed that after intestinal infection with EHEC, Stxs cross the intestinal barrier and bind to endothelial cells. At this point they presumably injure the host cell by inhibition of protein synthesis, stimulation of prothrombotic messages, or induction of apoptosis. The B subunit of Stx binds to the membrane receptor globotriaosylceramide (Gb3). Gb3 facilitates the endocytosis and intracellular trafficking of the toxin. The Stx A subunit hydrolyzes a specific adenine residue of the 60S ribosomal subunit of mammalian cells. As a consequence, Stx shuts down the protein machinery of the susceptible cell. The HUS is the net effect of a variety of interacting factors, including background risk of acquisition, host factors (such as age), virulence characteristics of the infecting EHEC strain, and exogenous factors. All known EHEC virulence determinants are located on mobile genetic elements, and this has an important impact on the evolution of these pathogens. The evolution of EHEC has a dynamic component that includes different genetic mechanisms. The recent progress in understanding the pathogenesis and epidemiology of EHEC infections forms a basis for the development of future strategies to prevent EHEC infections in humans.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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