Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli
(EHEC), a pathogenic subset of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli
(STEC), is an important cause of hemorrhagic colitis and hemolytic–uremic syndrome (HUS), and a rare cause of urinary tract infections (UTIs) with associated HUS. EHEC strains attach intimately to intestinal epithelium with formation of actin pedestals (attaching-effacing (A/E) lesions); however, the mechanism of EHEC attachment to the uroepithelium is unknown. We conducted a retrospective study on archived urinary bladder specimens from gnotobiotic piglets that naturally developed cystitis associated with EHEC O157:H7 infection following oral inoculation and fecal shedding. Paraffin-embedded bladder tissues from three piglets with cystitis and immunohistochemical evidence of EHEC O157:H7 adherence to the uroepithelium were processed for and examined by transmission electron microscopy. EHEC O157:H7 bacteria were found in one of three piglets, intimately attached to pedestals on the apical surfaces of the superficial urothelium (umbrella cells). Cystitis was significantly associated with the length of survival of the piglets post-inoculation (p
= 0.0339; estimated odds ratio = 2.6652). This is the first report of E. coli
causing A/E-like lesions in the uroepithelium, and also evidence of the utility of the gnotobiotic piglet as a model for studies of the pathogenesis of EHEC UTIs.
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