Here are top 20 interesting facts about E. Coli bacteria (Escherichia coli):
#1 E. coli (full name – Escherichia coli) bacteria is named after a German pediatrician – Theodor Escherich, who discovered it in 1885. He originally named it ”Bacterium coli commune,” then, in 1895, it was reclassified and named after its discoverer.
#2 Most strains of this bacterium are harmless and live as normal flora in the gut of animals and humans. In the laboratory, the K-12 strain can be used to make useful compounds, such as – human growth factor, human insulin, epidermal growth factor (used to treat wounds and burns), and taxol (a cancer treatment).
#3 These bacteria can protect your large intestine against harmful colonies of bacteria and even assist in digestion (for instance, they help synthesize vitamins K and B-complex) and improve food absorption.
#4 There are approximately 700 serotypes of E. coli based on H, O, and K antigens. In 1973, it became the world’s first genetically engineered organism. In the United Kingdom, there were 41,153 cases of this infection in 2016/2017.
#5 Some foods that many healthcare specialists consider to be high risk for Escherichia coli contamination include:
- unpasteurized cheese and milk from sheep, cows, or goats;
- undercooked ground beef (used for hamburgers). This is why infections associated with this bacterium is more commonly known as ”Hamburger Disease;”
- vegetables which are grown in cow manure;
- consuming foods (plants or animal products) which haven’t been stored at the proper temperature.
#6 Other sources of contamination include:
- during hospitalization;
- due to environmental exposure (for example, for people who source their drink water from a private well, particularly those around cattle farms);
- when people accidentally swallow contaminated water while swimming in a pool, lake, or irrigation canal;
- individuals can also become infected when a contaminated town or city water supply has not been correctly treated with chlorine;
- contact with animals – this can happen in petting zoos, farms, and fairs;
- people to people transmission is possible when there is a close contact.
#7 People who have lowered stomach acid, either due to medicines that lower stomach acid or stomach surgery, have a higher risk of infection.
#8 The most frequent E. coli strain linked to foodborne illness is the Shiga-toxin-producing E. coli – 0157: H7. It is responsible for many different reports of contaminated beverages and foods.
#9 This strain was identified in 1982 following an outbreak of diarrhea resulting from consumption of undercooked beef. It is a serious public health concern due to high potential for outbreaks and the risk of other serious complications.
#10 According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is one of the most frequent cause of foodborne illness in the United States, sickening about 265,000 individuals per year.
#11 Besides food poisoning, it can cause neonatal meningitis, septicemia, and gastroenteritis. It is estimated that infections caused by this bacterium account for more than 2,000 hospitalizations every year in the US.
#12 Uncomplicated cases of food poisoning due to these bacteria clear up within five to ten days and can be treated at home. It is recommended to drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest.
#13 If you cannot ingest plenty of fluids or if your symptoms are harsh (including severe abdominal pain or blood in your stools), you should seek medical care.
#14 Antibiotics are not part of the treatment of individuals with these type of problems and may actually increase the risk of subsequent HUS. In addition, antidiarrheal agents should be completely avoided.
#15 Definitive diagnosis is done by culturing the bacteria from the patient‘s stool or by immunological tests.
#16 Symptoms and signs of E. coli infection include:
- pale skin;
- loss of appetite;
- diarrhea (sometimes bloody and may last only a very short time – depending on the bacterial subtype);
- mild fever (less than 101° F or 38° C) may or may not be present;
- severe abdominal tenderness or bad stomach cramps.
#17 Around 15 percent of children diagnosed with STEC O157 infection develop the severe complication of HUS (hemolytic uremic syndrome). This disorder happens when Shiga toxins get into the bloodstream and cause the section of the kidney which filters toxins out of the blood to break down, leading to kidney injury and in rare occasions to kidney failure.
#18 Hemolytic uremic syndrome can require intensive care, transfusions, and kidney dialysis. With intensive care, the death rate for HUS is 3 to 5%.
#19 How to avoid this type of infection:
- because the bacteria are usually spread through fecal matter reaching the mouth, a good hygiene is important in preventing contamination and spread;
- wash your hands thoroughly with soap before eating, before and after handling foods, changing diapers, and after using the toilet;
- another easy method for you to avoid this infection is to always maintain the cleanliness of food you consume, especially to keep raw meat separate from ready-to-eat foods. Moreover, cook all ground beef and hamburger properly.
- due to the fact that STEC is destroyed when you cook the foods, all parts of the food should reach a minimum temperature of 70 °C.
#20 Beef is still the 3rd most common food commodity to be linked with this infection, just behind fish and dairy, despite over twenty years of progress made to reduce beef-related outbreak.