Discovery of Escherichia coli discussion

Escherichia coli is a Gram-negative rod-shaped organism. Though it has been discovered over 150 years ago, research is still being carried out to understand different mechanisms of the organism. Thus, it stays as the most widely researched organism to date. Being a Gram-negative rod, it has a thin peptidoglycan layer and an outer membrane layer. It is a facultative anaerobic organism and is peritrichous. It is an important commensal known to invade the intestinal gut of most mammals. It is one of the first organisms to invade the large intestine. It was discovered by a German–Austrian pediatrician Theodore Escherich in 1885. Theodore Escherich worked extensively on intestinal bacteria. Most of his work was on bacteriology, especially on the microorganisms present in the earliest stool of infants known as the meconium. During his study to understand the development of intestinal flora, he observed certain rod-shaped organisms under the microscope. It was named bacterium coli commune by Escherich. He went on to discover other important morphological and physiological properties of the organism and published his findings. Later, the bacteria were named Escherichia coli by Chalmers and Castellini.

Escherichia coli belongs to the Enterobacteriacea family. Based on the Gram staining procedure, it is found to be Gram-negative due to the presence of a thin layer of peptidoglycan and an outer membrane. Hence, it appears red under the microscope after the Gram staining procedure. It may be motile or non-motile. The motile strains have tail-like thin projections all over the surface and hence are said to be peritrichous. E. coli can live under aerobic and anaerobic conditions, making it a facultatively anaerobic organism. It is one of the first microorganisms to invade the gut after birth. E. coli is known to be a commensal organism since it can invade and thrive in the gut. Though E. coli generally does not cause infection, pathogenic strains may also be present. These pathogenic strains can cause food poisoning. An example is the enterohemorrhagic E. coli found in unpasteurized milk, which causes bloody stool and diarrhea. Certain strains of E. coli can thrive under high temperatures, but most of them grow under moderate temperatures. To adhere to its host, E. coli has several mechanisms like the presence of adhesins. Another important feature of E. coli is that it has a capsule on its surface. The capsule helps E. coli to evade the immune responses of the host. Certain unusual molecules may be present in the outer membrane of E. coli; one of the best known is the lipopolysaccharide or LPS in short. The LPS is made up of both carbohydrate and lipid and has three important parts as follows:

The lipid A

Core polysaccharide

side chain

Lipid A is found to be embedded in the outer membrane, whereas the core polysaccharide and O antigen extend from the surface of bacteria. E. coli has a single circular chromosome and a plasmid. The plasmid can be spread from one to another by horizontal gene transfer or lateral gene transfer. This is an important mechanism for the spread of antibiotic-resistant genes among several species. E. coli is used for many industrial purposes, such as in the production of insulin by recombinant microbial species. It can also be used as a probiotic. It is extensively used in research particularly due to its ability for fast growth.

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