Eleven Escherichia coli strains, crossreactive with the capsular polysaccharide (CPS) of Neisseria meningitidis group A (GrA), were detected among 645 stool isolates from healthy families in Cairo, Egypt. 10 of these strains were of the O107:K93:H27 or O107:K93:SP serotypes and may be considered descendents of a single bacterium or as a clone. The remaining crossreactive strain was of the O7:K51:H18 serotype. None of the 11 strains produced enterotoxins and none were enteroinvasive. The purified CPS of these E. coli strains, as well as a polysaccharide (PS) from B. pumilis, strain Sh17, precipitated with equine GrA (H49) antiserum. A partial identity between the E. coli K93, K51 and Sh17 PS on the one hand and the GrA CPS on the other was observed by double immunodiffusion when reacted against the H49 antiserum. Four K93 strains and one K51 strain were found among 320 E. coli strains from patients at the Clinical Center, National Institutes of Health, and three K93 strains were found in 105 stool samples from children in Copenhagen. The data from these three surveys suggest that these crossreactive E. coli are common organisms and could serve as a stimulus for "natural" GrA CPS antibodies. Quantitative precipitation analysis showed that K51, K93, and Sh17 PS precipitated 25, 46.8, and 50% of H49 antibodies, respectively. Absorption of H49 antiserum with the GrA CPS removed its precipitating activity with the E. coli K93, K51, and Sh17 PS. Absorption of H49 antiserum with either K51 CPS or Sh17 PS removed the homologous crossreactivity only, whereas K93 CPS absorbed both K93 and K51 reactivities. Antibodies, raised by intravenous injection of formalinized E. coli K93 or K51 cells into rabbits, precipitated with GrA CPS and were bactericidal against GrA meningococci. The crossreaction between the E. coli K93 and the GrA CPS was unexpected since these two CPS are compositionally so dissimilar.

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