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Escherichia coli is a commensal of the vertebrate gut that is increasingly involved in various intestinal and extra-intestinal infections as an opportunistic pathogen. Numerous pathotypes that represent groups of strains with specific pathogenic characteristics have been described based on heterogeneous and complex criteria. The democratization of whole-genome sequencing has led to an accumulation of genomic data that render possible a population phylogenomic approach to the emergence of virulence. Few lineages are responsible for the pathologies compared with the diversity of commensal strains. These lineages emerged multiple times during E. coli evolution, mainly by acquiring virulence genes located on mobile elements, but in a specific chromosomal phylogenetic background. This repeated emergence of stable and cosmopolitan lineages argues for an optimization of strain fitness through epistatic interactions between the virulence determinants and the remaining genome.


Erick Denamur, Olivier Clermont, St├ęphane Bonacorsi, David Gordon. The population genetics of pathogenic Escherichia coli. Nature reviews. Microbiology. 2021 Jan;19(1):37-54

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PMID: 32826992

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