July 27 (HealthDay News).
Scientists who sequenced the
genetic structure of the E. coli strain that caused the deadly food
poisoning outbreak in Germany that began in May say their findings could
help fight the deadly bug.
Their paper was published online
July 27 in the New England Journal of Medicine.
"This research gives us insights
into the reasons why this particular strain of E. coli is so virulent,
allows us to hypothesize about the evolution of this bacterium and provides
clinically relevant information about the treatment of this infection,"
senior author Dr. Matthew Waldor, a researcher at Brigham and Women's
Hospital in Boston, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and
an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, said in a hospital
Waldor and his colleagues found
that the O104:H4 outbreak strain is different from other O104:H4 strains of
E. coli in a number of ways, including having a distinct set of virulence
and antibiotic resistance factors. They also found that the outbreak strain
also has genes encoding Shiga toxin 2 (Stx2) and the production of the Stx2
gene was increased by certain antibiotics, including ciprofloxacin.
"Based on our understanding of
the genetic profile of this E. coli strain, we would suggest caution in the
use of certain antibiotics to treat these infections," Waldor said.
"This analysis also emphasizes
the importance of the exchange of DNA between bacteria in the emergence of
new pathogens. There is evidence that the outbreak strain acquired many
genes by horizontal genetic exchange, which means that bacteria gave DNA not
only to the bacteria that they reproduce, but also to neighboring bacteria."
More than 4,000 people in
Germany and other countries were sickened since May, when the outbreak
began. They included several hundred people who developed a serious
complication that can lead to kidney failure. At least 53 people died, the
Associated Press reported.
The outbreak was traced to a
batch of fenugreek seeds from Egypt. The seeds are sometimes used as a spice
in cooking, and fenugreek sprouts are used in salads, the news service said.
Brigham and Women's Hospital, news
release, July 27, 2011.