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Deadly Trait Combo Arms German E. coli

The virulent strain that has killed 48 people produces Shiga toxin and sticks to the intestinal wall.

Megan Scudellari

E coliWIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The deadly E. coli outbreak that swept Germany in May was caused by a virulent strain of the bacteria that produces Shiga toxin and is able to stick to the intestinal wall in a brick-like clumping pattern, according to two papers published last week. “Once you see it you will never forget it,” Helge Karch of the University of Münster, senior author of a paper in the Lancet Infectious Diseases, told the New York Times. The virulent strain caused haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS)–a blood clotting disease that leads to kidney failure–in 25 percent of the patients, a much larger percentage than previous outbreaks of Shiga-toxin–producing E. coli, suggesting that this strain is exceptionally virulent, a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine reported.

Other researchers argue there is not enough evidence to conclude the strain is particularly virulent. "In every outbreak we...

In Germany, the daily numbers of reported cases have steadily decreased since they peaked on May 22, the World Health Organization reported today (June 27). To date, the outbreak has caused a total of 3,920 infections, including 48 fatalities.

 

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