Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (includes E. coli O157)
E. coli O157:H7 is one of hundreds of strains of the bacteriumEscherichia coli. The combination of letters and numbers in the name of the bacterium refers to the specific markers found on its surface, which distinguish it from other types of E. coli. Although most strains are harmless and live in the intestines of healthy humans and animals,E. coli O157:H7 and other strains produce a powerful toxin and can cause severe illness (Hemolytic uremic syndrome). Most infections have come from eating undercooked ground beef, but outbreaks have also been traced to unpasteurized milk, fruit juice, raw vegetables, and contaminated drinking water.
Hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, is a rare but serious disease that affects the kidneys and blood clotting system. HUS is caused by a powerful toxin produced by certain strains of bacteria, usually E. coli O157. It is a complex, potentially deadly condition that is the leading cause of acute kidney failure in infants and young children. Characteristically, HUS is marked by the destruction of red blood cells, damage to the lining of blood vessel walls, and kidney failure (in severe cases). Transfusions of blood or blood clotting factors (platelets) and dialysis are often needed in severe cases. Fortunately, most people with HUS recover completely and kidney function returns to normal. However, a prolonged hospital stay is often required.