Bacterial pathogens: from natural ecosystems to human hosts
Article first published online: 1 AUG 2012
© 2012 Society for Applied Microbiology and Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Special Issue: Environmental Ecology of Pathogens and Resistances
Volume 15, Issue 2, pages 325–333, February 2013
How to Cite
Martínez, J. L. (2013), Bacterial pathogens: from natural ecosystems to human hosts. Environmental Microbiology, 15: 325–333. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2012.02837.x
- Issue published online: 28 JAN 2013
- Article first published online: 1 AUG 2012
- Accepted manuscript online: 11 JUL 2012 03:30AM EST
- Received 24 April, 2012; revised 3 July, 2012; accepted 4 July, 2012.
The analysis of the genomes of bacterial pathogens indicates that they have acquired their pathogenic capability by incorporating different genetic elements through horizontal gene transfer. The ancestors of virulent bacteria, as well as the origin of virulence determinants, lay most likely in the environmental microbiota. Studying the role that these determinants may have in non-clinical ecosystems is thus of value for understanding in detail the evolution and the ecology of bacterial pathogens. In this article, I propose that classical virulence determinants might be relevant for basic metabolic processes (for instance iron-uptake systems) or in modulating prey/predator relationships (toxins) in natural, non-infective ecosystems. The different role that horizontal gene transfer and mutation may have in the evolution of bacterial pathogens either for their speciation or in short-sighted evolution processes is also discussed.