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What We Should Know about Escherichia Coli
June 1, 2011 20:31

Escherichia coli

People in Germany keep dying after allegedly eating vegetables with E. coli bacteria on their surface. What is Escherichia coli, why does it kill, and what should we do with it?

E. coli, which full name is Escherichia coli, is a bacterium, which dwells in the lower intestine of warm-blooded animals, including human beings. When a child is born, his intestine gets inhabited by these microbes, which follow him through his life, helping him digest food and producing some vitamins. Each human being on our planet normally lives in peaceful symbiosis with these microbes, which attach themselves to bowel walls.

Escherichia coli prefers temperatures of that of human body (37° Celsius) and lack of oxygen (anaerobic conditions), but can survive for some time outside a body, which means it is facultatively anaerobic. Manure is a widely used natural organic fertilizer, and this is how these microbes can find themselves on the surface of fruits and more often vegetables. Another possible way of getting infected is drinking contaminated water or irrigation of crops with such water. When our own E. coli meet alien strains of the bacterium, a war begins, and we feel sick. A well known traveler’s syndrome happens, when we arrive to another place and eat food with local Escherichia coli cells.


How we can be infected

However, this organism is not all nice, as one may think. Some strains of this bacterium produce toxins, which are lethal for host organisms. Some toxins destroy red blood cells, causing hemolytic-uremic syndrome and kidney injury. Bursts of this syndrome happen, when people eat undercooked meat or unwashed vegetables. First symptoms are bloody diarrhoea, no urination, weakness and sometimes vomiting. The syndrome can be lethal to people with weak immune system, like children and elder citizens. Treatment includes dialysis, taking corticosteroids, and transfusion of red blood cells. Bacterial infections after often fought by means of antibiotics, but in case of Escherichia coli the problem of drug resistance appears.

What do we need to do to avoid being infected or, God forbid, killed by a symbiotic microorganism Escherichia coli? First of all, we should wash well all fruits and vegetables before we eat them in any form. Peeling and eating bananas straight from a supermarket is no good. Bad news for medium rare and rare steak eaters – well-done meat is the choice of healthy people at least until the infection eliminates. Wash your hands, if you touched vegetables in fields where pigs feed, or when you touched pigs and other animals.

Russian authorities ban sales of vegetables, grown in the European Union due to outburst of gastrointestinal infection, induced by E. coli. However, Spanish cucumber producers, accused of having E. coli cells on their vegetables, claim microbes were of another strain, which doesn’t cause hemolytic-uremic syndrome. Anyway, you will live longer, if washing hands becomes something like a mantra for you.



Source: BBC

Medline Plus

Kizilova Anna

Author: Anna Kizilova

Tags: Russian scientists health    

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