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Clin Microbiol Rev. 2009 Apr;22(2):349-69, Table of Contents. doi: 10.1128/CMR.00053-08.

Enterotoxigenic Bacteroides fragilis: a rogue among symbiotes.

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Divisions of Infectious Diseases and Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 1550 Orleans Street, CRB2 Building, Suite 1M.05, Baltimore, MD 21231, USA.


Enterotoxigenic Bacteroides fragilis (ETBF) strains are strains of B. fragilis that secrete a 20-kDa heat-labile zinc-dependent metalloprotease toxin termed the B. fragilis toxin (BFT). BFT is the only recognized virulence factor specific for ETBF. ETBF strains are associated with inflammatory diarrheal disease in children older than 1 year of age and in adults; limited data suggest an association of ETBF colonization with inflammatory bowel disease flare-ups and colorectal cancer. ETBF secretes one of three highly related BFT isoforms. The relationship between BFT isoform and disease expression is unknown. Although the mechanism of action of BFT is incompletely understood, available data suggest that BFT binds to a specific intestinal epithelial cell receptor, stimulating intestinal cell signal transduction pathways that result in cell morphology changes, cleavage of E-cadherin, reduced colonic barrier function, and increased epithelial cell proliferation and cytokine expression (such as the proinflammatory chemokine interleukin-8). Together, the data suggest that in some hosts, ETBF acts via secretion of BFT to induce colitis. However, the full spectrum of clinical disease related to ETBF and the impact of chronic ETBF colonization on the host remain to be defined.

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