Pathogenicity Islands and the Evolution of Bacterial Pathogens

Infect Agents Dis. 1996 Jan;5(1):1-7.


The term pathogenicity island has been used to refer to large chromosomal regions in pathogenic bacteria that encode virulence genes. This article reviews the recent history of this term and considers what characteristics define a pathogenicity island. It appears that pathogenicity islands can confer complex virulence phenotypes and were acquired by bacteria from unrelated organisms, leading to interesting hypotheses about how bacterial pathogens evolved. It is likely that mechanisms that generate pathogenicity islands continue to operate and may contribute to the emergence of bacterial pathogens with new virulence properties.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacteria / pathogenicity*
  • Bacterial Infections / epidemiology
  • Bacterial Infections / etiology
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Chromosomes, Bacterial / genetics
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Humans
  • Multigene Family
  • Phenotype
  • Virulence / genetics