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Journal of Pathogens
Volume 2011, Article ID 182051, 16 pages
Review Article

Pathogenesis of Y. enterocolitica and Y. pseudotuberculosis in Human Yersiniosis

1Department of Microbiology & Immunology, Sealy Center for Vaccine Development, Institute of Human Infections & Immunity, and the Galveston National Laboratory, University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Boulevard, Galveston, TX 77555-1070, USA
2Department of Biology, Center for Bionanotechnology and Environmental Research (CBER), Texas Southern University, 3100 Cleburne Street, Houston, TX 77004, USA

Received 1 March 2011; Revised 27 June 2011; Accepted 1 July 2011

Academic Editor: Ramesh C. Ray

Copyright © 2011 Cristi L. Galindo et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Yersiniosis is a food-borne illness that has become more prevalent in recent years due to human transmission via the fecal-oral route and prevalence in farm animals. Yersiniosis is primarily caused by Yersinia enterocolitica and less frequently by Yersinia pseudotuberculosis. Infection is usually characterized by a self-limiting acute infection beginning in the intestine and spreading to the mesenteric lymph nodes. However, more serious infections and chronic conditions can also occur, particularly in immunocompromised individuals. Y. enterocolitica and Y. pseudotuberculosis are both heterogeneous organisms that vary considerably in their degrees of pathogenicity, although some generalizations can be ascribed to pathogenic variants. Adhesion molecules and a type III secretion system are critical for the establishment and progression of infection. Additionally, host innate and adaptive immune responses are both required for yersiniae clearance. Despite the ubiquity of enteric Yersinia species and their association as important causes of food poisoning world-wide, few national enteric pathogen surveillance programs include the yersiniae as notifiable pathogens. Moreover, no standard exists whereby identification and reporting systems can be effectively compared and global trends developed. This review discusses yersinial virulence factors, mechanisms of infection, and host responses in addition to the current state of surveillance, detection, and prevention of yersiniosis.