Gene Study Sheds Light on Deadly German
E. Coli Strain07/27/11
WEDNESDAY, July 27 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists who sequenced
the genetic structure of the
E. coli strain that caused the deadly food poisoning outbreak
in Germany that began in May say their findings could help fight
the deadly bug.
Their paper was published online July 27 in the
New England Journal of Medicine.
"This research gives us insights into the reasons why this particular strain of E. coli is so virulent, allows us to hypothesize about the
evolution of this bacterium and provides clinically relevant
information about the treatment of this infection," senior author
Dr. Matthew Waldor, a researcher at Brigham and Women's Hospital in
Boston, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and an
investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, said in a
hospital news release.
Waldor and his colleagues found that the O104:H4 outbreak strain
is different from other O104:H4 strains of
E. coli in a number of ways, including having a distinct set
of virulence and antibiotic resistance factors. They also found
that the outbreak strain also has genes encoding Shiga toxin 2
(Stx2) and the production of the Stx2 gene was increased by certain
antibiotics, including ciprofloxacin.
"Based on our understanding of the genetic profile of this
E. coli strain, we would suggest caution in the use of
certain antibiotics to treat these infections," Waldor said.
"This analysis also emphasizes the importance of the exchange of DNA between bacteria in the emergence of new pathogens. There is evidence that the outbreak strain acquired many genes by horizontal genetic exchange, which means that bacteria gave DNA not only to the bacteria that they reproduce, but also to neighboring bacteria."
More than 4,000 people in Germany and other countries were
sickened since May, when the outbreak began. They included several
hundred people who developed a serious complication that can lead
to kidney failure. At least 53 people died, the
Associated Press reported.
The outbreak was traced to a batch of fenugreek seeds from
Egypt. The seeds are sometimes used as a spice in cooking, and
fenugreek sprouts are used in salads, the news service said.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about
E. coli infections.
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