Diarrhoea is the second leading cause of death in children under the age of five. The bacterial species, Vibrio cholerae and enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC), are among the main pathogens that cause diarrhoeal diseases, which are associated with high mortality rates. These two pathogens have a common infection site—the small intestine. While it is known that both pathogens utilize quorum sensing (QS) to determine their population size, it is not yet clear whether potential bacterial competitors can also use this information. In this study, we examined the ability of EPEC to determine V. cholerae population sizes and to modulate its own virulence mechanisms accordingly. We found that EPEC virulence is enhanced in response to elevated concentrations of cholera autoinducer-1 (CAI-1), even though neither a CAI-1 synthase nor CAI-1 receptors have been reported in E. coli. This CAI-1 sensing and virulence upregulation response may facilitate the ability of EPEC to coordinate successful colonization of a host co-infected with V. cholerae. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first observed example of ‘eavesdropping’ between two bacterial pathogens that is based on interspecies sensing of a QS molecule.
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