Research NewsMicrobiology

A Tangled Tale of E. coli Virulence

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Science  26 Jun 1998:
Vol. 280, Issue 5372, pp. 2048
DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5372.2048a

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On page 2114, microbiologists confirm expectations that hairlike appendages known as bundle-forming pili found on the surface of enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC)--a common cause of diarrhea in children in developing countries--are critical to the full virulence of these bacteria. The pili bundle together into ropelike filaments that interweave among bacteria, binding them into large aggregates. The tests also suggest that another key to EPEC's virulence is the ability of the pili to disentangle themselves so the bacteria can go on to infect new intestinal cells.