New E. coli strain suspect in German outbreak

by Bryan Salvage
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CARLSBAD, Calif. – Preliminary data from DNA sequencing suggests the bacterium at the root of the deadly E. coli outbreak in Germany is a new hybrid type of pathogenic E. coli strains. Although local health authorities are attempting to trace the source, the E. coli outbreak has been lilnked to cucumbers and other vegetables eaten in Germany.

Life Technologies Corporation began shipping its E. coli testing kits to European laboratories this week to screen contaminated food thought to be at the center of the outbreak that has killed 17 people and sickened more than 1,000 in Europe, to prevent further spreading of the bacterium.

DNA sequencing indicates the presence of genes typically found in two different types of E. coli: enteroaggregative E. coli (EAEC) and enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC). These results, which are being confirmed by further data analysis on the Ion PGM, may provide insight into this bacterium's aggressiveness and help prevent further outbreaks.

"The rapid whole genome sequencing results enabled us to discover within days a unique combination of virulence traits ... and makes this German outbreak clone a unique hybrid of different E. coli pathovars," said Dr. Alexander Mellmann, scientist at the German National Consulting Laboratory for Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) at the Institute of Hygiene, University Hospital Muenster.
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