Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) isolates from 36 persons with acute traveler's diarrhea from whom no other pathogens were recovered were tested (after no more than three subcultures) for the presence of colonization factor antigens I and II (CFA/I and CFA/II) and type 1 somatic pili. CFA/I or CFA/II was identified in 7 of 10 strains with heat-labile and heat-stable enterotoxins (LT+/ST+), but in only 2 of 12 LT-/ST+ (P < 0.05) and 0 of 14 LT+/ST- (P < 0.02) strains. CFA pili were nor found among 74 non-enterotoxigenic E. coli strains. Type 1 somatic pili were demonstrable in 42% of the 36 ETEC and in 49% of the 74 non-enterotoxigenic E. coli isolates. The nine ETEC isolates bearing a CFA were serially subcultured on 10 consecutive days and retested for CFA and toxin. After five subcultures only one strain had lost a CFA, but after 10 passages three strains were negative; two lost CFA/I and one lost CFA/II. The strain that lost CFA/II became negative for both LT and ST as well and was found to lack a 48- and a 60-megadalton plasmid. The two strains that lost CFA/I also became negative for ST, but plasmid analysis revealed no plasmid loss. Disappearance of the CFA/I phenotype without loss of a plasmid can be explained by phase variation, as exhibited by type 1 somatic pili, or by rearrangement of base sequences in the CFA/I plasmid genome. If purified pili vaccines are to provide broad-spectrum protection against ETEC diarrhea, the search must be intensified to identify the antigens responsible for adhesion to intestinal mucosa in the many ETEC strains that lack CFA/I and CFA/II.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases