Gram-negative bacilli are unusual agents of skin and soft tissue infections. Most previous cases have been reported in cirrhotic or immunocompromised patients, including a single case in a liver transplant recipient. The present report describes 3 cases of fatal skin or soft tissue infections caused by Escherichia coli that occurred in the postoperative course of liver transplantation. The 3 patients were profoundly immunosuppressed as a result of pre-transplant cirrhosis and the postoperative administration of a potent immunosuppressive therapy. Skin and soft tissue infections developed within the first week after liver transplantation, while graft liver function was satisfactory. The 3 patients presented with fever and skin lesions with or without bullae. Despite prompt appropriate antibiotic therapy and surgical debridement, the outcome was rapidly fatal (24 h on average). E. coli was isolated from subcutaneous tissues in 2 cases and from several blood cultures in the third one. The 3 isolates belonged to distinct phylogenetic groups, and did not harbor most of the virulence factors usually reported in extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli isolates. Our report suggests that E. coli can cause severe skin or soft tissue infection in the postoperative course of liver transplantation. The onset of infection is very early and the outcome is extremely poor, despite prompt adapted medical and surgical treatment. Host factors, rather than E. coli bacterial virulence potential, appear to be the major determinants of severity in these patients.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Antagonistic interactions are likely important driving forces of the evolutionary process underlying bacterial genome complexity and diversity. We hypothesized that the ability of evolved bacteria to escape specific components of host innate immunity, such as phagocytosis and killing by macrophages (MΦ), is a critical trait relevant in the acquisition of bacterial virulence. Here, we used a combination of experimental evolution, phenotypic characterization, genome sequencing and mathematical modeling to address how fast, and through how many adaptive steps, a commensal Escherichia coli (E. coli) acquire this virulence trait. We show that when maintained in vitro under the selective pressure of host MΦ commensal E. coli can evolve, in less than 500 generations, virulent clones that escape phagocytosis and MΦ killing in vitro, while increasing their pathogenicity in vivo, as assessed in mice. This pathoadaptive process is driven by a mechanism involving the insertion of a single transposable element into the promoter region of the E. coli yrfF gene. Moreover, transposition of the IS186 element into the promoter of Lon gene, encoding an ATP-dependent serine protease, is likely to accelerate this pathoadaptive process. Competition between clones carrying distinct beneficial mutations dominates the dynamics of the pathoadaptive process, as suggested from a mathematical model, which reproduces the observed experimental dynamics of E. coli evolution towards virulence. In conclusion, we reveal a molecular mechanism explaining how a specific component of host innate immunity can modulate microbial evolution towards pathogenicity.
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