The pks genomic island found in Escherichia coli strains of phylogenetic group B2 encodes colibactin, a polyketide-peptide genotoxin that causes DNA double-strand breaks. We investigated the relationship between carriage of the pks island and the capacity of E. coli strains to persist in the gut microbiota of 130 Swedish infants, who were followed from birth to 18 months of age. Long-term colonizers were significantly more likely to have the pks island than either intermediate-term colonizers or transient strains, which suggests that the pks island contributes to the pronounced gut-colonizing capacity of group B2 strains. Long-term persistence in the colon of pks island-containing E. coli strains may be associated with the induction of genomic mutations in the host intestine.
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