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Iran J Microbiol. 2010 Jun;2(2):59-72.

Population structure of gut Escherichia coli and its role in development of extra-intestinal infections.

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Faculty of Science, Health and Education, University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland 4556, Australia.


Extra-intestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli (ExPEC) strains are divided into uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC), strains causing neonatal meningitis and septicaemic E. coli. The most common pathotype of ExPEC is found among patients with urinary tract infection (UTI), defined as UPEC. These bacteria are responsible for >90% of cases of UTI and are often found amongst the faecal flora of the same host. E.coli strains are classified into four phylogenetic groups, A, B1, B2, and D. Groups A and B1 are commensal strains and carry few virulence-associated genes (VGs) while pathogenic group B2 and D usually possess VGs which enhance colonic persistence and adhesion in the urinary tract (UT). The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is widely accepted as a reservoir for UPEC and is believed that healthy humans have a reservoir of UPEC strains, belonging to phylogenetic group B2, and to a lesser extent, group D. These strains have superior ability to survive and persist in the gut of humans and can spread to cause extra-intestinal infections. ExPEC trains possess a range of VGs which are involved in their pathogenesis. These include adhesins, toxins, iron-acquisition systems (e.g. siderophores), and capsules. Evolutionary influences on the acquisition and main role of VGs amongst E. coli are widely debated, with some research holding that the prevalence of strains with VGs increases the likelihood of infections, whereas others believe that VGs provide a selective advantage for infection of extra-intestinal sites. This review is intended to present our existing knowledge and gaps in this area.


E.coli; Gut; Urinary tract infection; Virulence factors


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