Proteus Infection And Immunity

Susan R Heimer and Harry LT Mobley, Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Proteus mirabilis and P. vulgaris are motile, urease-positive, lactose-negative, indole-negative, gram-negative rod-shaped bacterial species of the family Enterobacteriaceae. They deaminate phenylalanine and produce abundant hydrogen sulfide. These species, which can differentiate from short vegetative cells to elongated, highly flagellated forms, are found in soil, water and the human intestinal tract. F. mirabilis is probably most familiar to clinical microbiologists who frequently observe agar plates on which this organism overtakes the entire surface as a result of swarming differentiation (Figure 1). Proteus was aptly named by Hauser in 1885 for the character in Homer's Odyssey who 'has the power of assuming different shapes to escape being questioned'.

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