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Microb Pathog. 2012 Feb;52(2):140-7. doi: 10.1016/j.micpath.2011.10.003. Epub 2011 Oct 18.

Cronobacter spp. (previously Enterobacter sakazakii) invade and translocate across both cultured human intestinal epithelial cells and human brain microvascular endothelial cells.

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Laboratory of Enteric and Sexually Transmitted Diseases, DBPAP, OVRR, Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, Food & Drug Administration, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


The mechanism of Cronobacter pathogenesis in neonatal meningitis and potential virulence factors (aside from host cell invasion ability) remain largely unknown. To ascertain whether Cronobacter can invade and transcytose across intestinal epithelial cells, enter into the blood stream and then transcytose across the blood-brain-barrier, we have utilized human intestinal INT407 and Caco-2 cells and brain microvascular endothelial cell (HBMEC) monolayers on Transwell filters as experimental model systems. Our data indicate a wide range of heterogeneity with respect to invasion efficiency among twenty-three Cronobacter isolates screened. For selected isolates, we observed significant levels of transcytosis for Cronobacter sakazakii across tight monolayers of both Caco-2 and HBMEC, mimicking in vivo ability to cross the intestine as well as the blood brain barrier, and at a frequency equivalent to that of a control meningitis-causing Escherichia coli K1 strain. Finally, EM analysis demonstrated intracellular Cronobacter bacteria within host vacuoles in HBMEC, as well as transcytosed bacteria at the basolateral surface. These data reveal that certain Cronobacter isolates can invade and translocate across both cultured human intestinal epithelial cells and HBMEC, thus demonstrating a potential path for neonatal infections of the central nervous system (CNS) following oral ingestion.

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