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FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2006 Oct;263(1):10-20.

Weapons of mass destruction: virulence factors of the global killer enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli.

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Division of Immunity and Infection, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, UK.


Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) is the most common cause of food and water-borne E. coli-mediated human diarrhoea worldwide. The incidence in developing countries is estimated at 650 million cases per year, resulting in 800 000 deaths, primarily in children under the age of five. ETEC is also the most common cause of diarrhoea among travellers, including the military, from industrialized nations to less developed countries. In addition, ETEC is a major pathogen of animals, being responsible for scours in cattle and neonatal and postweaning diarrhoea in pigs and resulting in significant financial losses. Studies on the pathogenesis of ETEC infections have concentrated on the plasmid-encoded heat-stable and heat-labile enterotoxins and on the plasmid-encoded antigenically variable colonization factors. Relatively little work has been carried out on chromosomally encoded virulence factors. Here, we review the known virulence factors of ETEC and highlight the future for combating this major disease.

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