Bacillus cereus comprises a highly versatile group of bacteria, which are of particular interest because of their capacity to cause disease. Emetic food poisoning is caused by the toxin cereulide produced during the growth of emetic B. cereus in food, while diarrhoeal food poisoning is the result of enterotoxin production by viable vegetative B. cereus cells in the small intestine, probably in the mucus layer and/or attached to the host's intestinal epithelium. The numbers of B. cereus causing disease are highly variable, depending on diverse factors linked to the host (age, diet, physiology and immunology), bacteria (cellular form, toxin genes and expression) and food (nutritional composition and meal characteristics). Bacillus cereus group strains show impressive ecological diversity, ranging from their saprophytic life cycle in soil to symbiotic (commensal and mutualistic) lifestyles near plant roots and in guts of insects and mammals to various pathogenic ones in diverse insect and mammalian hosts. During all these different ecological lifestyles, their toxins play important roles ranging from providing competitive advantages within microbial communities to inhibition of specific pathogenic organisms for their host and accomplishment of infections by damaging their host's tissues.
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