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J Pediatr. 1986 May;108(5 Pt 2):800-5.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa: biology, mechanisms of virulence, epidemiology.


Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a gram-negative pathogen, versatile and opportunistic in terms of its genetics, metabolic potential, and mechanisms of virulence. This versatility enables it to respond to variable and frequently adverse environmental conditions. Considered by many to be an aerobic organism, it is capable of growing anaerobically if certain substrates are available, for example, nitrates or arginine. Diversity of mechanisms of genetic exchange, including transformation, transduction, and conjugation, help P. aeruginosa adapt to changing conditions by acquiring new genetic information. Genetic manipulations have been exploited in recent years to study the basic biology of this bacterial species and the roles of its numerous virulence factors. Recently, transposon mutagenesis techniques and recombinant DNA methods (cloning) have been used to study some of the virulence factors of P. aeruginosa. The pathogenesis of P. aeruginosa infections is multifactorial, as manifested by the numerous toxins, or virulence factors, it produces and the variety of diseases it causes. P. aeruginosa is invasive and toxigenic. Infections appear to occur in stages: bacterial adherence, colonization, invasion and dissemination, and systemic or toxemic disease. Virulence factors can contribute to one or several stages of pathogenesis. Surface factors, including pili, lipopolysaccharide, and polysaccharide slime (alginate), probably contribute to the first two stages. Polysaccharide slime and lipopolysaccharide may also contribute to other processes later in the course of infection. Toxins, including exotoxin A and phospholipase C (hemolysin), and proteases of P. aeruginosa may contribute to tissue damage and dissemination. They may also aid in the procurement of nutrients required by the bacteria in the early stages of infection. The significance of the different virulence factors probably depends on the infection. Alginate production and phospholipase C are likely to have special significance in respiratory infections, particularly in cystic fibrosis.

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