Two clones of O27:K1:H31 and O2:H7, isolated from patients with urinary tract infection or bacteraemia, failed to grow in a synthetic minimal medium (MM) of low osmolality. They were considered to be osmo-remedial because they grew well when sufficient amounts of NaCl, mannitol or sucrose were added to raise the osmolality of the medium to > 300 mOsm/kg. The defect could also be corrected by nicotinamide or its precursors quinolinic and aspartic acids. Each clone had a unique DNA restriction enzyme profile, fimbriae and antibiotic susceptibility patterns. The osmo-remedial variants were unstable and underwent phenotypic modulation to form mixtures with osmo-tolerant forms when grown in MM. They tended to form satellites of small colonies around large colonies of osmo-tolerant cells on MM agar plates. The penicillin method of Davis was used to separate the two forms. Nicotinamide induced the expression of when the osmo-remedial strains were grown under conditions of low osmolality. It is possible that the variants are defective in the synthesis of membrane-derived oligosaccharides or outer-membrane proteins, but this has yet to be determined.


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