E. coli Outbreak

Toxic strain of E. coli has emerged from Germany

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) You’ve probably heard about E. coli and its different strains that cause people to become ill. Well a new more dangerous strain has taken over Europe and is causing alarm.

A recent outbreak in Germany of a new strain of E. coli surfaced in May and has spread throughout Europe. The World Health Organization (WHO) is still unsure of the cause of the outbreak, but all cases seem to have originated in Germany.

"New deadly E. coli strain is highly infectious and toxic."

The University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendork and Beijin Genomics Institute-Shenzhen (BGI) are studying the strain of bacteria in hopes of finding the cause of infection, so its spread can be stopped and treatments developed.

We regularly come in contact with a number of different types of E. coli, most of which are harmless. A type of E. coli strand that causes illness is part of the Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC). The toxins produced by this E. coli strain cause diarrhea, infections, and in some cases death.

Mark Bans, D.C., agrees by saying, "There is no reason for anyone here to panic. We need to do the same precautionary steps that we would always do: 1) wash your hands before, during, and after dealing with raw meats and vegetables, 2) Cooking meats to at least 160 degrees in temperature, 3) being careful when handling or transferring raw meat from one surface to another, 4) washing your vegetables before you eat them."

BGI received a sample of the new E. coli strain and studied its DNA. They found that it is part of the enterohemorrhagic (EHEC) group in STEC. The new strain can cause hemorrhagic colitis and hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), which are found in most of the cases in Europe.

Hemorrhagic colitis is an infection in the intestine that causes bloody diarrhea, and hemolyticuremic syndrome causes both kidney problems and bloody diarrhea. Both can lead to death.

It has also acquired many antibiotic resistant genes, making treatment extremely difficult or impossible.

Further research is being done on the strain in hopes of finding an effective treatment - and a way to stop the spread. But, WHO has not yet recommended trading restrictions with countries involved, and people in America are not in harm's way at this point.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 2, 2011
Last Updated:
June 3, 2011