Friday, June 10, 2011

Deadly E. Coli in Europe

The BoingBoing blog has a good article by Maggie Koerth-Baker that summarizes the current state of knowledge about the deadly E. coli outbreak in Europe:
Europe is currently in the grip of a deadly outbreak of Escherichia coli O104:H4—a rare strain of a common bacterium. Prior to last month, E. coli O104:H4 had only been identified as a cause of illness in one, single person. As of yesterday, the bacteria had sickened thousands and killed 27.


Over the weekend, authorities thought they'd pinpointed the outbreak to a bad batch of organic salad sprouts. But, when preliminary tests of the sprouts turned up no evidence of contamination, they backed off and started pointing the finger at imported cucumbers and tomatoes from Spain. Today, the official opinion flip-flopped again. Direct tests of the sprouts are still turning up negative. But epidemiological studies show that people who ate the sprouts were 9 times more likely to become infected than those who had not.
She explains how hard it is to pinpoint the source of the outbreak. It's a nice education into this fight against food-borne illness.

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