Possible step-up in prevalence for Escherichia coli ST131 from fecal to clinical isolates: inferred virulence potential comparative studies within phylogenetic group B2

J Biomed Sci. 2022 Oct 7;29(1):78. doi: 10.1186/s12929-022-00862-7.


Background: Escherichia coli sequence type (ST)131 is an important urinary tract pathogen, and is responsible for considerable healthcare-associated problems and costs worldwide. A better understanding of the factors that contribute to its rapid worldwide spread may help in arresting its continual spread. We studied a large collection of fecal and urinary E. coli ST131 and E. coli non-ST131 phylogenetic group B2 isolates, from women, men and children, in regional NSW, Australia.

Results: We found out that there was a step up in ST131 prevalence (and possibly in virulence) from fecal to clinical (urinary) isolates in general, and specifically among ciprofloxacin resistant isolates, in the 3 host groups. Furthermore, our results revealed that the inferred virulence potential of the ST131 isolates (as measured by VF gene scores) was much higher than that of non-ST131 phylogenetic group B2 isolates, and this was much more pronounced amongst the urinary isolates. This finding suggests presence of possible E. coli phylogenetic B2 subgroups with varying levels of virulence, with ST131 being much more virulent compared to others. A strong association between ST131 and fluoroquinolone (FQ) resistance was also demonstrated, suggesting that FQ use is related to ST131 emergence and spread. Specifically, about 77% of ST131 isolates from women and men, and 47% from children, were extended spectrum β- lactamase (ESBL) producers. Moreover, FQ resistant ST131 ESBL isolates on average harbored more VF genes than all other isolates.

Conclusions: The strong association between ST131 prevalence and FQ resistance amongst the studied isolates suggests that FQ use is related to ST131 emergence and spread. Furthermore, our results demonstrate that FQ resistance and a plurality of VF genes can exist together in ST131, something that has traditionally been regarded as being inversely related. This may partly contribute to the emergence and worldwide spread of ST131.

Keywords: Antibiotic resistance; Escherichia coli; Virulence genes.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Child
  • Ciprofloxacin
  • Escherichia coli Infections* / epidemiology
  • Escherichia coli* / genetics
  • Female
  • Fluoroquinolones
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Phylogeny
  • Prevalence
  • Virulence / genetics
  • beta-Lactamases / genetics


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Fluoroquinolones
  • Ciprofloxacin
  • beta-Lactamases