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Crit Rev Microbiol. 1995;21(2):85-100.

Host-microbe interaction in the gastrointestinal tract.

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Department of Laboratory Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.


In order for an infection to occur, the target organ must come in contact with sufficient microbes, the microbe must possess specific virulence factors, these virulence factors must be expressed, and the defenses of the organ system must be overcome. This dynamic process, which is ongoing in all living entities, can be described by the following relationship: [formula: see text] The establishment of infection first occurs in a particular organ. This phenomenon is known as tissue trophism and the association of microbes with organ systems governs the practice of clinical microbiology and infectious disease. With some microbes (e.g., Giardia, Cryptosporidium) the interaction with the particular organ is so specific that infections are almost always confined to one site; with others (e.g., Salmonella, enterovirus) the microbe has the potential to become systemic. When attempting to establish health risk assessment from microbes by contact with food and drinking water, one must therefore consider that the gastrointestinal tract is a complex organ system with a variety of specific host defense mechanisms. It is only when the microbe has particular virulence factors for sites in gastrointestinal tract, and the specific host defense mechanisms in the gastrointestinal tract are breached, that infection of this organ system occurs. Therefore, the general terms "immunosuppression" or "immunocompromise" are meaningless unless the specific immune defect is known. A description of the microbial virulence factors active against the gastrointestinal tract and the defense mechanisms of this organ system are reviewed to provide a biological basis health risk assessment and future food and drinking water regulations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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