What is E. coli O157:H7?

Agricultural Disaster Preparedness and Recovery, Food Safety September 09, 2010 Print Friendly and PDF
E. coli O157:H7 is a gram-negative rod-shaped bacterium that produces potent toxins that cause severe damage to the intestinal tract lining of those infected. E. coli is found many places in our environment, especially on animal surfaces and in their intestines. Many types of E. coli are not harmful. However, E. coli O157:H7 toxins are responsible for the symptoms associated with infection: hemorrhagic colitis, hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), and even death. Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is a potentially life-threatening condition which may cause kidney failure. It is difficult to eradicate the organism in nature because it can survive at low temperatures and under acidic conditions. Most illness has been associated with eating undercooked, contaminated ground beef, drinking unpasteurized milk, swimming in or drinking contaminated water, and eating contaminated raw vegetables. More information about E. coli O157:H7.


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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.