The R6-5 plasmid-specified outer membrane protein, TraT protein, has previously been shown to mediate resistance to bacterial killing by serum. Colony hybridization with a 700 bp DNA fragment carrying most of the traT gene was used to examine the prevalence of traT in Gram-negative bacteria, particularly strains of Escherichia coli, isolated from clinical specimens. traT was found in isolates of E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella and Klebsiella, but not in Pseudomonas, Aeromonas or Plesiomonas, nor in the few isolates of Enterobacter, Proteus, Acinetobacter, Citrobacter, Serratia or Yersinia that were examined. It was detected in a significantly higher proportion of the E. coli strains isolated from the blood of patients with bacteraemia/septicaemia or from faeces of patients with enteric infections (50-70%) than in that of strains isolated from normal faeces (20-40%). The incidence of traT in strains isolated from cases of urinary tract infections was variable. traT was found to be frequently associated with production of the K1 capsule and with the carriage of ColV plasmids, but not with the carriage of R plasmids, nor with serum resistance or the production of haemolysin.