New York Times Examines Very Rare E. Coli Strain Responsible For German Outbreak

The New York Times examines the E. coli strain responsible for the recent outbreak in Germany, saying the bacteria “have a highly unusual combination of two traits and that may be what made the outbreak among the deadliest in recent history, scientists there are reporting.”

New research published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases on Wednesday shows that the very rare O104:H4 strain carries the Shiga toxin, which is responsible for causing severe illness including bloody diarrhea and in some cases kidney failure, and clumps on the surface of the intestinal wall, “possibly enhancing the bacteria’s ability to pump the toxin into the body,” according to the newspaper. The article discusses why this outbreak was so deadly, eventually killing 39 people, where the bacteria go in between outbreaks and why it struck young and middle-aged women more seriously (Kolata, 6/22).