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E.coli infection kills a dozen Germans

Posted by feww on May 29, 2011

Ongoing E.coli outbreak: One of the worst in history

The Ongoing E. coli outbreak in Germany (and other European countries) has claimed about a dozen lives and sickened 1,000 others, 300 of them with Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS)

The outbreak is “one of the largest [ascribed to] HUS worldwide and the largest ever reported in Germany,” the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control said.

“While HUS cases are usually observed in children under five years of age, in this outbreak 87% are adults, with a clear predominance of women [two-thirds.]”

The outbreak is also said to be the largest of its kind worldwide. The source of infection is thought to be Spanish cucumbers.


Transmission electron micrograph of E. coli O157:H7 showing flagella. Pseudoreplica technique. Date: 1995. Photo Credit: Elizabeth H. White, M.S. / CDC

The virulent form of E.coli can cause blood poisoning temporary anemia, profuse bleeding and kidney failure and affect the central nervous system, medical experts said.

Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK have also reported cases of HUS.

“It is possible that there will be secondary infections during this outbreak as well. These secondary infections work from man to man and they can be avoided. That’s why we have to do everything possible for better personal hygiene.” A  Munster university epidemiologist said, warning that the  infection was spreading.

The University Hospital Luebeck  in northern Germany was quoted as saying that it was treating 70 patients and was expecting to receive 10 new cases a day.

“E. coli O157:H7 is a bacterial pathogen that has a reservoir in cattle and other similar animals.  Human illness typically follows consumption of food or water that has been contaminated with microscopic amounts of cow feces.  The illness it causes is often a severe and bloody diarrhea and painful abdominal cramps, without much fever.   In 3% to 5% of cases, a complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) can occur several weeks after the initial symptoms.  This severe complication includes temporary anemia, profuse bleeding, and kidney failure.” CDC said.


An image of E.coli bacteria provided by the USDA. The bacteria can cause diarrhea, dehydration, kidney failure and death. Image Number K11077-1 Low-temperature electron micrograph of a cluster of E. colibacteria. Each individual bacterium is oblong shaped. Photo by Eric Erbe, digital colorization by Christopher Pooley. Click image to enlarge.

Clinical Features

“Most people infected with E. coli O157:H7 develop diarrhea (often bloody) and abdominal cramps 2-8 days (average of 3-4 days) after swallowing the organism, but some illnesses last longer and are more severe. Infection is usually diagnosed by culture of a stool sample. Most people recover within a week, but some develop a severe infection. A type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) can begin as the diarrhea is improving; this can occur in people of any age but is most common in children under 5 years old and the elderly.” CDC said on its website.


A colorized version of PHIL 7137 depicting a highly magnified scanning electron micrographic (SEM) view of a dividing Escherichia coli bacteria, clearly displaying the point at which the bacteria’s cell wall was dividing; Magnification 21674x.

Escherichia coli is a Gram-negative bacterium that normally colonizes the digestive tract of most warm-blooded animals, including human beings. E. coli are facultative in nature, which means that they can adapt to their environments, switching between aerobic, and anaerobic metabolic growth depending environmental stresses. One strain of E. coli, O157:H7, causes an estimated 73,000 cases of infection, and 61 deaths in the United States each year. Infection often leads to bloody diarrhea, and occasionally to kidney failure. Most illness has been associated with eating undercooked, contaminated ground beef. Person-to-person contact in families and child care centers is also an important mode of transmission. Infection can also occur after drinking raw milk and after swimming in or drinking sewage-contaminated water. Content Providers: CDC/ Evangeline Sowers, Janice Haney Carr. Photo Date: 2005. Photo Credit: Janice Haney Carr

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