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Researchers are now beginning to understand why the E. coli in Germany was so severe and can now explain the disease progression

June 23, 2011

Researchers from Germany said the blended virulence profile of the rare Escherichia coli 0104:H4 strain is what led to the high progression of an amazing 864 hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) cases, 2938 enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) cases and 43 deaths that have occurred since the beginning of May, according to new findings published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

The German outbreak demonstrates that “blended virulence profiles in enteric pathogens, introduced into susceptible populations, can have extreme consequences for infected people,” the researchers wrote. “This pathogen, and this outbreak, will have profound implications for disease detection, reporting, food safety, and our understanding of microbial pathogenesis.

What does this mean for us all going forward?  Good question! The May-June outbreak of E. coli in Germany is of great interest for a number of reasons. The rate of HUS seen is more than double the rate seen in Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infections in the US with most cases in Germany occurring in adults while most cases in the US have been seen in children. The different disease seen with the German outbreak relates to the unique pathogen. E. coli O104:H4 which is a combination of two well known pathogens, STEC and enteroaggregative E. coli.

What will be interesting is what happens next…will this ‘Super E. coli’ strain will die out like SARS coronavirus or will be a major threat to world public health.  Only time will tell.

Stay tuned!

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