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α-Haemolysin production, as a single factor, causes fulminant sepsis in a model of Escherichia coli-induced bacteraemia

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α-Haemolysin (HlyA) from uropathogenic Escherichia coli has been demonstrated to be a significant virulence factor for ascending urinary tract infections. Once the E. coli reach the well-vascularised kidneys, there is a high risk of bacteraemia and a subsequent septic host response. Despite this, HlyA has the potential to accelerate the host response both directly and via its ability to facilitate adenosine triphosphate release from cells. It has not been settled whether HlyA aggravates bacteraemia into a septic state. To address this, we used an E. coli strain in a model of acute urosepsis that was either transfected with a plasmid containing the full HlyA operon or one with deletion in the HlyA gene. Here, we show that HlyA accelerates the host response to E. coli in the circulation. Mice exposed to HlyA-producing E. coli showed massively increased proinflammatory cytokines, a substantial fall in circulating thrombocytes, extensive haematuria, and intravascular haemolysis. This was not seen in mice exposed to either E. coli that do not secrete HlyA or vehicle controls. Consistent with the massive host response to the bacteria, the mice exposed to HlyA-producing E. coli died exceedingly early, whereas mice exposed to E. coli without HlyA production and vehicle controls survived the entire observation period. These data allow us to conclude that HlyA is a virulence factor that accelerates a state of bacteraemia into fulminant sepsis in a mouse model.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13017
JournalCellular Microbiology
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Research areas

  • bacteraemia, E. coli, infection, sepsis, α-haemolysin

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