More Rare E. coli Strains Causing Illness in U.S

Following the start of the ongoing and historic Germany <"">E. coli outbreak that has sickened 2,400—700 very seriously with significant kidney problems—and killed 23, federal officials have revealed that rare E. coli has been sickening more and more people in the United States. The outbreak has impacted at least 12 countries.

To date, four Americans have fallen ill as a result of this outbreak; however, they were traveling in Germany when they became in contact with the foodborne pathogen.

According to The New York Times, the national foodborne illness national monitoring system found that illnesses in 2010 from rare, nonO157 E. coli bacteria related to the same group that spawned the virulent strain being seen right now in Germany, are on the rise.

Even though this particular pathogen has not made its way into the U.S. the germ is part of an uncommon group of the dangerous pathogen that was recently identified as the reason for more sicknesses in the U.S, than the better known E. coli O157:H7, said The Times. This is likely because, said the times citing officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), laboratories are now testing for these pathogens. As we wrote earlier this week, the CDC just released its 2010 foodborne disease nationwide tracking system results.

As we’ve explained, the German E. coli strain has been identified as new, mutant, and potentially deadly, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO explained that initial genetic sequencing points to this new strain being a altered collaboration of two separate E. coli bacterium with deadly genes.

As we wrote yesterday, although declines have been seen in E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks, other strains of that dangerous foodborne pathogen have risen, said Chris Braden, director of CDC’s division of food-borne, water-borne and environmental diseases. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking a ban on the selling of raw beef contaminated with what public health officials call the “Big Six,” six virulent strains of nonO157 E. coli, said The Washington Post. Industry is against the proposal, which remains with the Office of Management and Budget.

The Times reported that the proposal is lagging with the Obama administration, but it is expected that, ultimately, ground beef containing any of the Big Six will be banned or testing will be mandated for these bacteria.

CDC data is derived nationally and is based on foodborne illnesses in 10 states, as we’ve mentioned. The Times explained that the area of reporting represents 15 percent of the nation’s population and is meant to provide a representative sampling of what is occurring throughout the U.S.

Last year, the FoodNet system, revealed 442 people in the CDC sample area were sickened by E. coli O157:H7; 184 required hospitalization and two died, said The Times. Meanwhile, added The Times, 451 were sickened with nonO157 E. coli, which led to 69 hospitalizations and one fatality. The prior year, FoodNet detected 264 cases of the nonO157 E. coli, which points to a rise in those cases and which might be due to increased testing, said The Times.

According to the government, one in six Americans are sickened with food poisoning annually; of these, 3,000 people will die.

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