E. coli O104:H4

Type: Bacterial

Geography: Western and Northern Europe, North America

Cases Per Year: 4,000

Fatality Rate: 1%

First Discovered: 2011 in Germany

A common mode of E coli O101:H4 infection involves ingestion of contaminated food; thus, the disease can be considered a foodborne illness.

E. coli O104 is a Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC). The toxins cause illness and the associated symptoms by sticking to the intestinal cells and aggravating the cells along the intestinal wall. This can cause bloody stools to occur. Another effect from this bacterial infection is hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which is a condition characterized by destruction of red blood cells that can cause kidney failure. Symptoms of HUS are vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and blood in the urine.

The disease can be prevented by thorough handwashing with soap, washing and hygienically preparing food, and properly heating and cooking food so bacteria are destroyed.

Photo: E. coli bacteria cultured – Electron micrograph.