Submitted to: Virulence Mechanisms of Bacterial Pathogens
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/5/2000
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: To successfully colonize a host, a bacterium must reach a suitable microhabitat on or within the host, establish dividing cell populations, and persist. A pathogenic bacterium has the additional task of damaging host tissues, inadvertently, or in the course of accomplishing the other steps. Each colonization step requires that characteristics of the bacterium overcome, or at least balance, environmental forces working against the bacterium. Through evolution, adaptations have developed that enable a bacterium to take advantage of or to contend with factors in its environment. Colonization is the successful outcome of bacterial interactions with the living and nonliving components of the environment. For the host-associated bacterium, the living components of its environment are host tissues and frequently, but not always, other colonizing micro-organisms. The nonliving components can include fluid flow, pH, osmolality, oxygen/redox potential, inert surfaces/viscous matrices (mucus), essential substrates or nutrients, toxicants, bacteriophages. In this chapter, three examples of adaptations important for bacteria colonizing human hosts are described. Coaggregation refers to specific physical associations that occur between bacterial species colonizing the human mouth. Acid resistance and osmoadaptation are features of Helicobacter pylori and E. coli, bacteria that colonize, respectively, the stomach and lower gastrointestinal tract. The chapter is intended to provide a short preview of each topic, not a review.