Organ cultures of small- and large-intestinal mucosa from children were used to examine the interactions of enteroaggregative Escherichia coli (EAEC) with human intestine. Mucosae from patients aged between 3 and 190 months were cultured with five EAEC strains isolated from infants with diarrhea in the United Kingdom and with two well-described prototype EAEC strains, 17-2 and 221. The prototype strains adhered to jejunal, ileal, and colonic mucosae. The wild-type strains also adhered to this tissue but showed a variable pattern of adhesion: two adhered to all intestinal levels, one adhered to jejunum and ileum, one adhered to ileum only, and one adhered to ileum and colon. Adherence was in an aggregative or stacked-brick pattern, resembling that seen on HEp-2 cells. Electron microscopy of infected small intestinal mucosa revealed bacteria in association with a thick mucus layer above an intact enterocyte brush border, which contained extruded cell fragments. This mucus layer was not present on controls. EAEC adherence to colonic mucosa was associated with cytotoxic effects including microvillous vesiculation (but without evidence of an attaching/effacing lesion), enlarged crypt openings, the presence of intercrypt crevices, and increased epithelial cell extrusion. These results demonstrate that in vitro organ culture of intestinal mucosa from children can be used to investigate EAEC pathogenesis in childhood directly. EAEC strains appear able to colonize many regions of the gastrointestinal tract, without overt changes to small intestinal mucosa but with cytotoxic effects on colonic mucosa
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