E. Coli and sickness

Peter Herman x5495 rpeter at nmsu.edu
Mon Feb 1 08:14:13 EST 1993

In article <1993Jan27.213929.1300 at mala.bc.ca> apland at mala.bc.ca writes:
>Hi. I'm a grade 12 biology student.  I am wondering about the effects of E. 
>Coli bacteria injested through uncooked meat. Recently a young child died and 
>tens of others have became ill in Washington State after eating uncooked 
>hamburgers.  The news attributed the illness to E. Coli, but my biology text 
>says that E.Coli is a harmless bacteria found in the colon.  Does this have 
>something to do with the high pH in the colon as apposed to the low pH in the 
>Thanks, Shannon

E. coli is indeed an organism which is part of the normal bacterial
flora of the human gut, though in very low numbers compared to other
bacteria.  The outbreak that is in the news is due to ingestion of a
strain that is found in cattle gut and produces a toxin like the one
produced by the pathogen Shigella.  There are a variety of strains
of  E. coli which can cause problems, though they are not usually as
severe as the current outbreak.  The "Montazuma's Revenge" that
travelers get when traveling in especially in Latin America is the
best known of these.  Most of the E. coli caused illnesses follow
the current pattern, adults experience discomfort and/or dehydration
while young children and very old people are at the greatest risk.

Peter Herman
Dept. of Biology
New Mexico State Univ.

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