Mother-to-infant transmission of the carcinogenic colibactin-producing bacteria

Yuta Tsunematsu, Koji Hosomi, Jun Kunisawa, Michio Sato, Noriko Shibuya, Emiko Saito, Haruka Murakami, Yuko Yoshikawa, Yuji Iwashita, Noriyuki Miyoshi, Michihiro Mutoh, Hideki Ishikawa, Haruhiko Sugimura, Motohiko Miyachi, Keiji Wakabayashi, Kenji Watanabe*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The Escherichia coli strain that is known to produce the genotoxic secondary metabolite colibactin is linked to colorectal oncogenesis. Therefore, understanding the properties of such colibactin-positive E. coli and the molecular mechanism of oncogenesis by colibactin may provide us with opportunities for early diagnosis or prevention of colorectal oncogenesis. While there have been major advances in the characterization of colibactin-positive E. coli and the toxin it produces, the infection route of the clb + strain remains poorly characterized. Results: We examined infants and their treatments during and post-birth periods to examine potential transmission of colibactin-positive E. coli to infants. Here, analysis of fecal samples of infants over the first month of birth for the presence of a colibactin biosynthetic gene revealed that the bacterium may be transmitted from mother to infant through intimate contacts, such as natural childbirth and breastfeeding, but not through food intake. Conclusions: Our finding suggests that transmission of colibactin-positive E. coli appears to be occurring at the very early stage of life of the newborn and hints at the possibility of developing early preventive measures against colorectal cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Article number235
JournalBMC Microbiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Dec
Externally publishedYes


  • Colibactin
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Escherichia coli
  • Natural product
  • Perinatal transmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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