Surface antigens as virulence factors in infection with bacteroides fragilis

Dennis L. Kasper, Andrew B. Onderdonk, B. Frank Polk, John G. Bartlett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Organisms of the genus Bacteroides represent the major group of obligate anaerobes involved in human infections. Bacteroides usually cause either bacteremia or localized abscesses. Of the numerous species of Bacteroides, Bacteroides fragilis is the single most frequent clinical isolate. B. fragilis and Bacteroides melaninogenicus have chemically incomplete lipopolysaccharides as compared with the lipopolysac- charides (endotoxins) of aerobic bacteria, and the lipopolysaccharides of Bacteroides lack the biologic potency characteristic of endotoxin. This inactivity may account for the very infrequent occurrence of disseminated intravascular coagulation or purpura that can accompany sepsis due to these organisms. Furthermore, strains of B. fragilis have an immunologically common capsular polysaccharide. In an animal model of intraabdominal sepsis, the encapsulated strains caused abscesses when given without other organisms, but abscess formation from unencapsulated strains of Bacteroides generally required the administration of a synergistic aerobe. The abscesses caused by encapsulated strains were shown to be directly attributable to the capsular polysaccharide, which is an important virulence factor of this organism. Patients or experimental animals infected with B. fragilis develop antibodies to the capsular polysaccharide, and these antibodies can be detected in a radioactive antigen-binding assay.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)278-290
Number of pages13
JournalReviews of infectious diseases
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1979
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)


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