Author(s): Mead PS, Griffin PM
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Abstract Escherichia coli O157 was first identified as a human pathogen in 1982. One of several Shiga toxin-producing serotypes known to cause human illness, the organism probably evolved through horizontal acquisition of genes for Shiga toxins and other virulence factors. E. coli O157 is found regularly in the faeces of healthy cattle, and is transmitted to humans through contaminated food, water, and direct contact with infected people or animals. Human infection is associated with a wide range of clinical illness, including asymptomatic shedding, non-bloody diarrhoea, haemorrhagic colitis, haemolytic uraemic syndrome, and death. Since laboratory practices vary, physicians need to know whether laboratories in their area routinely test for E. coli O157 in stool specimens. Treatment with antimicrobial agents remains controversial: some studies suggest that treatment may precipitate haemolytic uraemic syndrome, and other studies suggest no effect or even a protective effect. Physicians can help to prevent E. coli O157 infections by counselling patients about the hazards of consuming undercooked ground meat or unpasteurised milk products and juices, and about the importance of handwashing to prevent the spread of diarrhoeal illness, and by informing public-health authorities when they see unusual numbers of cases of bloody diarrhoea or haemolytic uraemic syndrome.
This article was published in Lancet
and referenced in Cloning & Transgenesis