Escherichia coli O157:H7

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Escherichia coli O157:H7 is an enterohemorrhagic strain of the bacterium Escherichia coli and a cause of foodborne illness.[1] Infection often leads to hemorrhagic diarrhea, and occasionally to kidney failure, especially in young children and elderly. Transmission is via the fecal-oral route, and most illness has been associated with eating undercooked, contaminated ground beef, swimming in or drinking contaminated water, and eating contaminated vegetables.

Contents

Bacteriology

E. coli serotype O157:H7 is a Gram-negative rod-shaped bacterium. The "O" in the name refers the cell wall (somatic) antigen number, whereas the "H" refers the flagella antigen. Other serotypes may cause (usually less severe) illness, but only those with the specific O157:H7 combination are reviewed here. Other bacteria may be classified by "K" or capsular antigens. (The "O" stands for ohne Hauch [Ger. "without huff" or "without film"]; "H" for Hauch; and "K" for Kapsel.[2][3]) This is one of hundreds of serotypes of the bacterium Escherichia coli. While most strains are harmless and normally found in the intestines of mammals, this strain may produce Shiga-like toxins, cause severe illness, and is a member of a class of pathogenic E. coli known as enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli or EHEC. Sometimes also referred to by their toxin producing capabilities, Verocytotoxin producing E. coli (VTEC) or Shiga-like Toxin producing E. coli (STEC).

E. coli O157:H7 was first recognized as a pathogen as a result of an outbreak of unusual gastrointestinal illness in 1982. The outbreak was traced to contaminated hamburgers, and the illness was similar to other incidents in the United States and Japan. The etiologic agent of the illness was identified as a rare O157:H7 serotype of Escherichia coli in 1983. This serotype had only been isolated once before, from a sick patient in 1975.[4]

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