Bacteraemia caused by Escherichia coli are particularly frequent and severe, contrasting with the commensal character of the strains found in the digestive tract. A better understanding of the relationships between strains of both origins is needed to unravel the pathogenesis of this disease. Two hundred and forty-three commensal strains were compared to 243 bacteraemic strains isolated from adult hosts matched in terms of gender and age, and from similar location and epoch. Phylogenetic grouping, O-type determination, virulence factor content and antibiotic resistance were compared. Compared to commensal strains, the bacteraemic strains were characterized by a higher proportion of B2, C and D phylogroups, and a lower proportion of A, E and F phylogroups. They also had a lower proportion of the B2 subgroup IV (STc141), a higher proportion of virulence factors, and a higher frequency of antibiotic resistance. These differences were more marked for the bacteraemic strains of urinary tract origin with the presence of specific clones, whereas the bacteraemic strains of digestive origin remained non-significantly different from the commensal strains, except for their antibiotic resistance. Thus, two levels of specialization from commensal strains were demonstrated in the bacteraemic strains: resistance to antibiotics in all cases, and virulence for those of urinary tract origin.