An ultrastructural study of enteropathogenic Escherichia coli infection in human infants

Ultrastruct Pathol. 1983 Jun;4(4):291-304. doi: 10.3109/01913128309140582.


Over the past 2 years, we have studied and treated 18 infants with protracted diarrhea due to an enteropathogenic Escherichia coli serogroup 0119. All patients had persistent stool escretion and jejunal over-growth with this pathogenic E. coli. Jejunal biopsy revealed atrophy of villi with a chronic inflammatory cell infiltrate in the lamina propria. E. coli 0119 adhered to the luminal surface of enterocytes. Electron microscopy showed disappearance of glycocalyx and microvilli at the areas of bacterial adherence. Intracellular damage was indicated by dilatation of rough endoplasmic reticulum, mitochondrial changes, and cytoplasmic pallor. Similar changes in histology and ultrastructure occurred in ileal epithelial cells. Glandular crypt epithelium showed prominent subnuclear vacuolation and separation of lateral intercellular junctions throughout the small intestine. Rectal mucosal biopsy showed mucus depletion and irregular atrophy of the epithelium, with E. coli 0119 adherent to the luminal surface. Ultrastructural damage paralleled that in the small intestine. E. coli 0119 causes damage to epithelial cells throughout the infant intestinal tract. This damage leads to atrophy of villi and a marked reduction in absorptive surface area, resulting in protracted diarrhea.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Colon / ultrastructure
  • Diarrhea, Infantile / pathology*
  • Escherichia coli Infections / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ileum / ultrastructure
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intestines / ultrastructure*
  • Jejunum / ultrastructure
  • Male
  • Rectum / ultrastructure