The effects of three bacterial pathogens on the villus architecture of small intestines and the role that bacterial virulence factors play in pathogenesis are described. Bacterial pathogens cause a spectrum of effects ranging from severe tissue damage to a lack of perceptible damage. Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli, which cause acute and severe diarrhea, does so by producing potent toxins, but these toxins act by altering the biological activity in epithelial cells. However, the cells are not damaged. Enteropathogenic E. coli and Salmonella, on the other hand cause various degrees of tissue damage. As part of their pathogenesis, they employ a type III protein secretion system to orchestrate internal changes in target cells. The expression of many virulence related genes is tightly regulated and appears to be turned on in response to cues found in the intestinal tract. The consequences of this level of regulation also is discussed.
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