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Microbes Infect. 2006 Mar;8(3):834-40. Epub 2006 Jan 13.

Enhanced persistence in the colonic microbiota of Escherichia coli strains belonging to phylogenetic group B2: role of virulence factors and adherence to colonic cells.

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Department of Clinical Bacteriology, Göteborg University, Guldhedsgatan 10, S-413 46 Göteborg, Sweden.


Escherichia coli segregates into four phylogenetic groups, A, B1, B2 and D. B2 and D strains usually possess virulence factors, cause most extra-intestinal infections and have superior capacity to persist in the infantile colonic microbiota. Here, we investigated 24 resident and 37 transient E. coli strains from the colonic microbiota of 13 Swedish schoolgirls sampled in the 1970s with respect to phylogenetic group identity, carriage of virulence factor genes, O and K antigens and mannose-sensitive and -resistant adherence to the colonic cell line HT-29. Resident strains more often belonged to phylogenetic group B2 than transient strains (38% vs 5% p=0.004). In contrast, transient strains more often than resident strains belonged to group A (57% vs 29%, p=0.04) or B1 (24% vs 13%, p=0.33). Most B2 strains belonged to uropathogenic O serogroups, carried genes for P fimbriae, K5 capsule and hemolysin and adhered in higher numbers to HT-29 cells via mannose-resistant mechanisms than strains from the other groups. Further, among strains carrying genes for P or S fimbriae, those belonging to group B2 adhered in highest numbers. In logistic regression, genes for P fimbriae and aerobactin predicted persistence in the colonic microbiota (p=0.050 and 0.056, respectively), while B2 origin did not reach significance as an independent variable (p=0.16). Our results indicate that virulence factors carried by group B2 strains contribute to their strong colonizing capacity. These factors may actually be regarded as fitness factors in the human gut.

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