Virulence of Escherichia coli clinical isolates in a murine sepsis model in relation to sequence type ST131 status, fluoroquinolone resistance, and virulence genotype

James R. Johnson, Stephen B. Porter, George Zhanel, Michael A. Kuskowski, Erick Denamur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations

Abstract

Escherichia coli sequence type ST131 (O25b:H4) has emerged over the past decade as a globally disseminated, multidrug-resistant pathogen. Unlike traditional antimicrobial-resistant E. coli, ST131 derives from virulence-associated phylogenetic group B2 and exhibits extraintestinal virulence factors. This, plus preliminary evidence of virulence in experimental animals, has suggested that ST131's epidemic emergence may be due to high virulence potential, compared with other E. coli types. To test this hypothesis, we compared a large number of matched ST131 and non-ST131 E. coli clinical isolates, both fluoroquinolone resistant and susceptible, plus isolates from classic extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli (ExPEC) sequence types (STs) and case report ST131 household transmission isolates, for virulence in a mouse subcutaneous sepsis model. Overall, in mice, the study isolates produced a wide range of lethality and clinical illness. However, neither ST131 status nor fluoroquinolone phenotype correlated with this diversity of illness severity, which occurred within each of the 6 study groups. In contrast, multiple known or suspected ExPEC virulence genes, including pap (P fimbriae), vat (vacuolating toxin), kpsM II (group 2 capsule), ibeA (invasion of brain endothelium), and clbB/N (colibactin synthesis), plus molecularly defined ExPEC status, were significantly associated with virulence. These findings point away from ST131 isolates as having higher virulence potential compared with other E. coli types in causing invasive extraintestinal infections and suggest instead that ST131's epidemiological success may reflect enhanced fitness for upstream steps in pathogenesis or in colonization and transmission. Additionally, the extensive within-ST virulence diversity suggests an opportunity to compare closely related strains to identify the responsible genetic determinants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1554-1562
Number of pages9
JournalInfection and immunity
Volume80
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2012

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