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Infect Agents Dis. 1996 Jan;5(1):1-7.

Pathogenicity islands and the evolution of bacterial pathogens.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


The term pathogenicity island has been used to refer to large chromosomal regions in pathogenic bacteria that encode virulence genes. This article reviews the recent history of this term and considers what characteristics define a pathogenicity island. It appears that pathogenicity islands can confer complex virulence phenotypes and were acquired by bacteria from unrelated organisms, leading to interesting hypotheses about how bacterial pathogens evolved. It is likely that mechanisms that generate pathogenicity islands continue to operate and may contribute to the emergence of bacterial pathogens with new virulence properties.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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