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E-coli – ‘A Never Before Seen Hybrid’

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E-coli – ‘A Never Before Seen Hybrid’

May 30
08:05 2011

The Spanish government has released a statement stating how furious it is over allegations that it is the source of the recent E coli outbreak hitting Europe. It is furious as “enormous damage to the Spanish agricultural sector has been caused … following reports from Germany which link food poisoning to cucumbers from Spain.”

Early results from DNA sequencing projects of the enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) strain appear to confirm that a never-before-seen hybrid which combines the worst of several different bacterial strains is causing the havoc.

European Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner John Dalli said: “This issue is an absolute priority. The European Commission is coordinating with Member States and is working with the German authorities, in particular, to ensure that the source of the problem is identified in order to be able to propose relevant solutions.

The agreed statement of all Member States demonstrates the joint commitment to cooperation, vigilance and solidarity on this matter. It is positive that the number of new infection cases seems to be declining but all authorities must ensure continuous surveillance, which is crucial at this stage, as we are still working to pin down the possible source of contamination and eliminate risks for public health.”

People are being advised to apply general hygiene rules to limit the risk of contamination. Fruit and vegetables need to be washed thoroughly, wash your hands before preparing food or eating, and after using the bathroom or changing diapers. Citizens are also being told to thoroughly wash knives, plates and other utensils.

According to the latest information, the STEC outbreak is responsible for nine deaths in Germany and one in Sweden.

Paul Wigley of the University of Liverpool’s School of Veterinary Science, said that the E coli outbreak was caused by a type called O104, part of a group of bacteria that produces a chemical called verocytotoxin (Vtec).

These bacteria normally infect people directly through animal faeces, or more usually through poorly cooked meat contaminated with the bacteria. Whilst most strains of E coli do not cause disease, Vtec are able to attach to the wall of the intestines very tightly and produce toxins

Officials have also noted, however, that the transport chain is long, and the cucumbers from Spain could have been contaminated at any point along the route.

Adding to the confusion, authorities in Hamburg, where four suspect cucumbers were found last week — three from Spain — said tests on two of the vegetables had found a different strain of EHEC from the one carried by patients in the city.

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