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Clin Microbiol Rev. 2007 Oct;20(4):593-621.

Bacteroides: the good, the bad, and the nitty-gritty.

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Wadsworth Anaerobe Laboratory, Greater Los Angeles VA Healthcare Systems University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90073, USA.


Bacteroides species are significant clinical pathogens and are found in most anaerobic infections, with an associated mortality of more than 19%. The bacteria maintain a complex and generally beneficial relationship with the host when retained in the gut, but when they escape this environment they can cause significant pathology, including bacteremia and abscess formation in multiple body sites. Genomic and proteomic analyses have vastly added to our understanding of the manner in which Bacteroides species adapt to, and thrive in, the human gut. A few examples are (i) complex systems to sense and adapt to nutrient availability, (ii) multiple pump systems to expel toxic substances, and (iii) the ability to influence the host immune system so that it controls other (competing) pathogens. B. fragilis, which accounts for only 0.5% of the human colonic flora, is the most commonly isolated anaerobic pathogen due, in part, to its potent virulence factors. Species of the genus Bacteroides have the most antibiotic resistance mechanisms and the highest resistance rates of all anaerobic pathogens. Clinically, Bacteroides species have exhibited increasing resistance to many antibiotics, including cefoxitin, clindamycin, metronidazole, carbapenems, and fluoroquinolones (e.g., gatifloxacin, levofloxacin, and moxifloxacin).

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