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Escherichia coli in infants' intestinal microflora: colonization rate, strain turnover, and virulence gene carriage.

Journal article
Authors Forough Nowrouzian
Bill Hesselmar
Robert Saalman
Inga-Lisa Strannegård
Nils Åberg
Agnes E Wold
Ingegerd Adlerberth
Published in Pediatric research
Volume 54
Issue 1
Pages 8-14
ISSN 0031-3998
Publication year 2003
Published at Institute of Laboratory Medicine
Institute of Laboratory Medicine, Dept of Clinical Bacteriology
Institute for the Health of Women and Children, Dept of Paediatrics
Pages 8-14
Language en
Keywords Animals, Animals, Domestic, Colon, microbiology, DNA, Bacterial, analysis, Escherichia coli, genetics, pathogenicity, Escherichia coli Infections, microbiology, Family Characteristics, Female, Humans, Infant, Infant Food, Life Style, Male, Random Amplified Polymorphic DNA Technique, Sweden, Virulence
Subject categories Microbiology in the medical area


Colonization by Escherichia. coli in infants might have decreased in the last decades, owing to changes in hospital routines and family lifestyle. In this study, the E. coli flora was characterized in 70 healthy Swedish infants followed for the first year of life. E. coli was isolated from rectal swabs obtained at 3 d of age and quantified in fecal samples collected at 1, 2, 4, and 8 wk of age and at 6 and 12 mo of age. Strains were typed using random amplified polymorphic DNA, and their virulence factor genes were identified by multiplex PCR. Colonization by E. coli occurred late; only 61% of the infants were positive by 2 mo of age. The turnover of individual strains in the microflora was slow (1.5 strains per infant during 6 mo, 2.1 during 1 y). Environmental factors, such as siblings, pets, or feeding mode, did not influence colonization kinetics or strain turnover rate. Genes encoding type 1 fimbriae, P fimbriae, and hemolysin were significantly more common in E. coli strains persisting for at least 3 wk in the microflora than in transient strains. The P-fimbrial class III adhesin gene was more common in E. coli from children who had a cat in their homes than in E. coli from children without pets (p = 0.01); this adhesin type is common in E. coli from cats. The late colonization and low E. coli strain turnover rate suggest limited exposure of Swedish infants to E. coli. Our results confirm that P fimbriae and other virulence factors facilitate persistence of E. coli in the human colonic microflora.

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