[Avian pathogenic Escherichia coli (APEC)].Berl Munch Tierarztl Wochenschr. 2003 Sep-Oct; 116(9-10):381-95.BM
Infections with avian pathogenic Escherichia coli (APEC) cause colibacillosis, an acute and mostly systemic disease resulting in significant economic losses in poultry industry worldwide. Avian colibacillosis is a complex syndrome characterized by multiple organ lesions with airsacculitis and associated pericarditis, perihepatitis and peritonitis being most typical. Environmental factors as well as the constitution of poultry or initial viral infections influence the outcome of APEC-infections. However, several challenge experiments in chickens proofed the role of virulent APEC strains as the single aetiological agent. Currently serotypes O1:K1, O2:K1 and O78:K80 are recognized as the most prevalent, however the number of published serotypes is increasing. In addition, single APEC isolates vary profoundly in virulence, and knowledge about the molecular basis of this variability is still scarce. Known virulence factors of APEC are adhesins (F1- and P-fimbriae), iron acquisition systems (aerobactin and yersiniabactin), hemolysins (hemolysinE and temperaturesensitive hemagglutinin), resistance to the bactericidal effects of serum and phagocytosis (outer membrane protein, iss protein, lipopolysaccharide, K/1)-capsule and colilcin production) as well as toxins and cytotoxins (heat stable toxin, cyto-/verotoxin and flagella toxin). Esperimental studies have shown that the respiratory tract, principally the gas-exchange region of the lung and the interstitium of the air sacs are the most important sites of entry for avian pathogenic E. coli. APEC strains adhere to the epithelial cells of air sacs presumably through F1-fimbriae. After colonization and multiplication the bacteria enter the bloodstream, and the temperature-sensitive hemagglutinin (tsh) seems to be important int his step. After invading the bloodstream APEC cause a septicemia resulting in massive lesins in multiple internal organs and in sudden death of the birds. The ability of the bacteria to acquire iron and the resistance to the bactericidal effects of serum, predominantly conferred by the increased serum survival (iss)--protein, enables APEC to multiply quickly in their hosts. Iss is regarded a specific genetic marker for avian pathogenic E. colistrains. A critical review of the literature published so far on APEC reveals, that these pathotypes are not defined appropriately. This findings urge investigations on the population structure of APEC, enabling the establishment of appropriate diagnostic tools and avoiding the obsolete use of serotyping for APEC diagnosis. So far more than 20 APEC strains have been investigated in animal experiments, explaining contrary published results. Thus, the lack of knowledge in pathogenicity and in immunity of APEC infections urges further experimental studies. As APEC share not only identical serotypes with human pathogens but also specific virulence factors, their zoonotic potential is under consideration.