What Is E coli?

What Is E coli


E. coli is short for Escherichia coli bacteria (germs) that cause severe cramps and diarrhoea. E. coli is a leading cause of bloody diarrhoea. The symptoms are worse in children and older people, and especially in people who have another illness. E. coli infection is more common during the summer months.
E. coli were first isolated by T. Escherichia in 1885 and were named after him.

According to WHO

World Health Organisation says fatal E coli is a mutant blend of two different varieties and has never been seen before. A new and more virulent strain of the E coli bacterium caused the outbreak that has killed 17 people and left more than 1,500 ill across Europe. Hilde Kruse, a food safety expert at the WHO, told the Associated Press it was “a unique strain that has never been isolated from patients, that is more virulent and toxin-producing”.

According to the Health Protection Agency three British nationals have been infected as well as four Germans in the UK. All are believed to have caught it in Germany. Three are believed to have developed hemolytic uraemic syndrome, a rare and severe kidney complication that destroys red blood cells and can affect the central nervous system.

Mode of transmission

The most common way to get this infection is by eating contaminated food. You can be infected with the E. coli germ if you don’t use a high temperature to cook your beef, or if you don’t cook it long enough. When you eat undercooked beef, the germs go into your stomach and intestines

How we can keep away from getting E. coli infection?

You can help prevent this infection by handling and cooking meat in a safe way. For your protection, follow these rules:

– Wash your hands carefully with soap before you start cooking.
– Cook ground beef until you see no pink anywhere.
– Don’t taste small bites of raw ground beef while you’re cooking.
– Don’t put cooked hamburgers on a plate that had raw ground beef on it before.
– Cook all hamburgers to at least 155°F. A meat thermometer can help you test your hamburgers.
– Defrost meats in the refrigerator or the microwave. Don’t let meat sit on the counter to defrost.
– Keep raw meat and poultry separate from other foods. Use hot water and soap to wash cutting boards and dishes if – raw meat and poultry have touched them.
– Don’t drink raw milk.
– Keep food refrigerated or frozen.
– Keep hot food hot and cold food cold.
– Refrigerate leftovers right away or throw them away.
– People with diarrhoea should wash their hands carefully and often, using hot water and soap, and washing for at least 30 seconds. People who work in day care centres and homes for the elderly should wash their hands often, too.

What are the symptoms of E. coli infection?

Symptoms start about 7 days after you are infected with the germ. The first sign is severe abdominal cramps that start suddenly. After a few hours, watery diarrhoea starts. The diarrhoea causes your body to lose fluids and electrolytes (dehydration). This makes you feel sick and tired. The watery diarrhoea lasts for about a day. Then the diarrhoea changes to bright red bloody stools. The infection makes sores in your intestines, so the stools become bloody. Bloody diarrhoea lasts for 2 to 5 days. You might have 10 or more bowel movements a day. Some people say their stools are “all blood and no stool.”

You may have a mild fever or no fever. You may also have nausea or vomiting. If you have any of these symptoms — watery, bloody diarrhoea, cramps, fever, nausea or vomiting — try to get to your doctor right away.
How is the infection treated?

Don’t take medicine to stop diarrhoea unless your doctor tells you to. This medicine would keep your intestines from getting rid of the E. coli germ. If you are seriously dehydrated, you might need to go to the hospital to have fluids put into your veins with an IV.

How is E. coli infection diagnosed?

The diagnosis is made by finding E. coli in a stool culture. If you have bloody diarrhoea, see your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will do a culture to find out if you have E. coli in your intestines. The culture has to be taken in the first 48 hours after the bloody diarrhoea starts.

Preliminary genetic sequencing suggests the strain is a mutant form of two different E. coli bacteria, with aggressive genes that could explain why the Europe-wide outbreak appears to be so massive and dangerous, the agency said.

Hilde Kruse, a food safety expert at the WHO, told The Associated Press that “this is a unique strain that has never been isolated from patients before.”

She added that the new strain has “various characteristics that make it more virulent and toxin-producing” than the many E. coli strains people naturally carry in their intestines.

So far, the mutant E. coli strain has sickened more than 1,500 people, including 470 who have developed a rare kidney failure complication, and killed 18, including one overnight in Germany, the country hit hardest by the outbreak.

E. coli food poisoning

Many varieties (or strains) of E. coli are harmless. But some strains cause diseases, such as the E. coli food poisoning that we study. Strains of E. coli associated with this food poisoning are referred to as enter haemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC for short) because the symptoms include haemorrhage from the digestive tract.

E. coli food poisoning is also commonly called hamburger disease because it is often acquired by eating poorly-cooked minced beef. When contaminated beef is ground up, the bacteria are spread throughout the meat, and are killed only by thorough cooking. It is estimated that as few as 10 surviving bacteria will establish an infection.

The result of an infection may be as little as a case of diarrhoea, possibly with blood in the stools (haemorrhagic colitis). From 5 to 10% of people infected develop a serious condition known as haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), in which the kidneys are damaged. HUS can lead to permanent kidney damage, requiring long-term dialysis treatment. Some patients die, with the very young and very old being most at risk.

Although there are potential therapies in clinical trials, the current accepted practice is simply supportive therapy for the patient. There is a need for new therapies, which we are addressing by studying the molecular basis of this disease. What distinguishes EHEC from harmless E. coli is its production of toxins called Shiga-like toxins or Vero toxins. So we are studying the structure of these toxins and the molecular basis of their action on human cells.

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