SUMMARY: To assess the importance of aerobactin-mediated iron uptake as a bacterial virulence determinant in animal infections, a total of 576 strains of isolated from cattle, chickens, sheep and pigs were screened by colony hybridization to determine the presence of the aerobactin genetic determinants, and by a bioassay to detect aerobactin secretion in iron-limited conditions. Results obtained by the two complementary methods correlated well. The incidence of the aerobactin system was very high among septicaemia isolates, particularly those from cattle and chickens, an observation that strongly suggests an important role for this mechanism of iron assimilation in pathogenesis. On the other hand, the incidence of the aerobactin system among mastitis strains was not significantly higher than among faecal isolates from healthy animals. No classical enterotoxigenic strains tested carried the aerobactin genetic determinants. Although most strains that produced aerobactin were also able to make colicin V, the fact that the two characteristics existed separately in a significant minority of isolates suggested that colicin testing alone could not be reliably used to determine the presence of the aerobactin system.


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