serotypes O6:K14, O8:K14 and O28:K28 are common in the natural environment, but rare in hospitals. Serotypes O14:K14 and O27:K14 predominate among clinical strains, but not in the environment, suggesting that the latter serotypes may be more suited for survival in the clinical setting. Consequently, 469 epidemiologically distinct strains of were tested for various putative virulence factors and analysed for associations with serotype. the factors positively associated with serotype O14:K14 were agglutination of five different species of red blood cells and expression of type 1 fimbriae. These were found in 63% and 53% of O14:K14 strains, respectively, compared with 7% and 12% of the three ‘environmental serotypes’. Almost a quarter of the collection expressed the mannose-resistant haemagglutinin indicative of type 3 fimbriae, but this was not associated with any serotype. the production of DNAase, haemolysin, lipase, lecithinase, proteases and siderophores was almost universal and showed no serotype correlations. Almost half of the strains (46%) were resistant to serum and serotypes O27:K14 and O6:K14 were strongly associated with this characteristic. Serotype O27:K14 was also associated with higher proportions of antibiotic-resistant strains than other serotypes, but the same was not true of serotype O14:K14. All three ‘environmental serotypes’ were associated with low frequencies of antibiotic resistance; <12% were resistant to gentamicin, carbenicillin or piperacillin, or any combination of these three, compared with 20–25% of O14:K14 strains and > 42–51% of O27:K14 strains. Pigment production was strongly associated with serotype. None of the O14:K14 or O27:K14 strains produced prodigiosin, but frequencies for the three ‘environmental serotypes’ ranged from 31% of O28:K28 strains to 85% of O6:K14 strains. the results of this study suggest that the adherence capability of strains may play a role in the colonisation of hospital patients, while the production of prodigiosin is a marker of environmental origin.


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