E. coli 0157:H7
(Escherichia coli 0157:H7 infection)

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E. coli 0157:H7 Facts

  • Serotype E. coli 0157:H7 is a gram-negative bacterium that can produce a bloody diarrhea due to toxins, especially Shiga (Vero) toxin, it secretes when it infects the human intestine.
  • Other E. coli serotypes like 0145 can act like 0157:H7 if they aquire the ability to produce Shiga (Vero) toxin.
  • The symptoms of E. coli 0157:H7 infection may include a low fever, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and bloody diarrhea; the infection is contagious and can be spread from person to person by fecal contamination.
  • E. coli 0157:H7 is notorious because it can cause additional complications in children and the elderly; renal failure, anemia, and dehydration especially for children (termed HUS or hemolytic uremic syndrome) and spontaneous bleeding, organ failures, and mental changes in the elderly (termed TTP or thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura). Some of these patients develop permanent disabilities or die.
  • Diagnosis is definitively made when E. coli 0157:H7 is isolated, usually from the patient's stool, and identified as serotype 0157 by immunologic tests.
  • Most E. coli 0157:H7 infections resolve spontaneously and require no treatment; however supportive treatment is usually quickly required if the patient becomes dehydrated, anemic, or develops HUS or TTP.
  • The majority of E. coli 0157:H7 infections have excellent outcomes. If complications develop such as severe dehydration, anemia, HUS or TTP, the outcomes can decline from good to poor quickly.
  • Infection with E. coli 0157:H7 usually comes from eating contaminated food. Prevention of consists of eating well cooked foods, especially hamburger, and drinking treated or pasteurized fluids. Avoiding touching or eating any food that may be contaminated with any animal or human waste will help prevent the infection.
  • There is no E. coli 0157:H7 vaccine available for humans.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/20/2012

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Shiga Toxin-Producing E. coli Infection Facts

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel, Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

Escherichia coli, or E. coli for short, is a very common bacterium. There are hundreds of different strains of E. coli. Some are harmless while others cause serious illness. Non-pathogenic strains of E. coli -- those that do not cause disease -- are normal inhabitants of the intestinal tract in humans and animals. But certain strains of E. coli can cause severe diarrhea and infect the genital and urinary tracts.

Examples of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli outbreaks

The most notorious type of pathogenic E. coli is known as E. coli 0157:H7. The name refers to the chemical compounds found on the surface of the bacterium. This strain was identified in 1982 following an outbreak of diarrhea resulting from the eating of undercooked beef. The 0157:H7 E coli strain belongs to a group of bacteria known as "Shiga toxin-producing" E. coli, or STEC for short. They have also been referred to as verocytotoxic E. coli (VTEC) or enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC). Outbreaks of E. coli 0157:H7-induced illness have been common in recent years. In 2011, a deadly outbreak began in Europe due to a rare strain of E coli, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O104, or STEC O104, that produces a serious illness similar to that produced by E coli 0157:H7. At the time of the outbreak, which was centered in Germany and related to contaminated vegetables, the STEC 0104 strain had never been identified in the United States.

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