A University of Liverpool scientist has discovered how the food poisoning bug E.Coli 0157 became deadly to humans.
Twenty-three years ago a harmless gut bacterium called E. coli developed the ability to kill people through food poisoning, bloody diarrhoea and kidney failure. Normally E. coli bacteria live in the intestine and dont pose any danger, but some varieties can cause fatal food poisoning. The most serious in the UK is E. coli O157, which is carried by livestock (mainly cattle), and can enter the human food chain through contaminated meat and inadequate food processing.
Dr Heather Allison, from the Universitys School of Biological Sciences, explains: "Sometime before 1982 an unknown virus that attacks bacteria passed on a part of genetic coding to E. coli that allows some strains to make Shiga toxin. This lethal poison causes the notorious food-borne infection that results in bloody diarrhoea and sometimes kidney failure in people."
Samantha Martin | EurekAlert!
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