Background & aims: Infectious agents are suspected of being involved in the pathogenesis of Crohn's disease. This study was designed to look for the presence of virulent Escherichia coli strains associated with the ileal mucosa of patients with Crohn's disease.
Methods: E. coli strains were recovered from resected chronic ileal lesions (n = 20), neoterminal ileum after surgery from patients with (n = 19) and without (n = 11) endoscopic recurrence, and controls (n = 13). Bacterial adhesion was determined in vitro using intestinal cell lines; other associated virulence factors were assessed by DNA hybridization and polymerase chain reaction experiments.
Results: None of the strains harbored any of the virulence factor-encoding genes of E. coli involved in acute enteric diseases. However, mannose-resistant adhesion to differentiated Caco-2 cells was found for 84.6% and 78.9% of the E. coli strains isolated from chronic and early recurrent lesions, respectively, compared with 33% of controls (P < 0.02). In addition, 21.8% of the strains induced a cytolytic effect by synthesis of an alpha-hemolysin.
Conclusions: E. coli strains isolated from the ileal mucosa of patients with Crohn's disease adhere to differentiated intestinal cells and may disrupt the intestinal barrier by synthesizing an alpha-hemolysin.