Urinary tract infection (UTI) is one of the most frequently acquired bacterial infections. The vast majority of UTIs are caused by a large, genetically heterogeneous group of Escherichia coli. This genetic diversity has hampered identification of UTI-related genes. A three-step experimental strategy was used to identify genes potentially involved in E. coli UTI transmission or virulence: epidemiologic pairing of a UTI-specific strain with a fecal control, differential cloning to isolated UTI strain-specific DNA, and epidemiologic screening to identify sequences among isolated DNAs that are associated with UTI. The 37 DNA sequences initially isolated were physically located all over the tester strain genome. Only two hybridized to the total DNA of the sequenced E. coli K-12 strain; eight sequences were present significantly more frequently in UTI isolates than in fecal isolates. Three of the eight sequences matched to genes for multidrug efflux proteins, usher proteins, and pathogenicity island insertion sites, respectively. Using population characteristics to direct gene discovery and evaluation is a productive strategy applicable to any system
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