UPDATE: 2011-06-10:AM New data released in Germany strongly suggest that locally produced bean sprouts were, as suspected, the source of the deadly E. coli outbreak. “It’s the bean sprouts,” said Reinhard Burger, head of Germany’s centre for disease control. “People who ate sprouts were nine times more likely to have bloody diarrhoea than those who did not,” he added. BBC
UPDATE: 2011-06-06:PM The first tests on bean sprouts from a northern German farm suspected of being the source of an E. coli outbreak are negative, officials say. Of 40 samples from the farm being examined, officials said 23 tested negative. Further tests are pending. BBC
UPDATE: 2011-06-06:AM Beansprouts grown in northern Germany are suspected to be the source of an E. coli outbreak that has left 22 people dead, local officials say – BBC.
Why the E. coli outbreak has people scared – The E. coli EHEC 0101:H4 outbreak that originated in Germany is spreading and Christine Gorman, writing in Scientific American, says she’s scared. At the time of writing, 10 countries had reported more than 1600 severe cases to World Health Organization in Europe and it’s likely that thousands more people have minor infection. The Centers for Disease Control has reported two cases (both travellers) in the US of infection with the EHEC 0101:H4 strain and state health departments are being urged to be vigilant. It is scary and people are dying. But, novel emerging diseases are nothing new and are inevitable in an evolving world. Open up a new niche and a pathogen will evolve to fill it. What is more scary is waiting to learn whether the authorities learned the lessons of SARS, H5N1 and H1N1 influenza and previous epidemics and whether we can thus prevent this emerging pathogen from spreading much further yet.
By the way, E coli infection is not treated with antibiotics. The bacteria do not necessarily infect specific organs, such as kidneys, they release a toxin into your system that attacks these organs. Scaremongering in the media does not help, it has not yet “spread” to anywhere beyond Northern Germany other than via travellers to that part of the world who have returned home. Simple things like practicing good hygiene could prevent a major epidemic.
- E. coli O104:H4 in Europe–is it new? (scienceblogs.com)
- Indonesia goes on alert against E. coli strain from Europe – Xinhua (news.google.com)
- German-grown sprouts named likely culprit in deadly outbreak (mysatelite.wordpress.com)
- There Are Probably A Lot of Angry Spanish Farmers Right About Now… [Mike the Mad Biologist] (scienceblogs.com)
- Germany’s E. coli cases ‘slowing’ (bbc.co.uk)