The asymptomatic bacteriuria Escherichia coli strain 83972 outcompetes uropathogenic E. coli strains in human urine

Viktoria Hancock, G.C. Ulett, M.A. Schembri, Per Klemm

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    Escherichia coli is the most common organism associated with asymptomatic bacteriuria (ABU). In contrast to uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC), which causes symptomatic urinary tract infections (UTI), very little is known about the mechanisms by which these strains colonize the human urinary tract. The prototype ABU E. coli strain 83972 was originally isolated from a girl who had carried it asymptomatically for 3 years. Deliberate colonization of UTI-susceptible individuals with E. coli 83972 has been used successfully as an alternative approach for the treatment of patients who are refractory to conventional therapy. Colonization with strain 83972 appears to prevent infection with UPEC strains in such patients despite the fact that this strain is unable to express the primary adhesins involved in UTI, viz. P and type 1 fimbriae. Here we investigated the growth characteristics of E. coli 83972 in human urine and show that it can outcompete a representative spectrum of UPEC strains for growth in urine. The unique ability of ABU E. coli 83972 to outcompete UPEC in urine was also demonstrated in a murine model of human UTI, confirming the selective advantage over UPEC in vivo. Comparison of global gene expression profiles of E. coli 83972 grown in lab medium and human urine revealed significant differences in expression levels in the two media; significant down-regulation of genes encoding virulence factors such as hemolysin, lipid A, and capsular polysaccharides was observed in cells grown in urine. Clearly, divergent abilities of ABU E. coli and UPEC to exploit human urine as a niche for persistence and survival suggest that these key differences may be exploited for preventative and/or therapeutic approaches.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalInfection and Immunity
    Pages (from-to)615-624
    Publication statusPublished - 2006

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