Escherichia coli, EHEC and HUS

Ricin (Ricinus communis)

The castor oil plant (ricin in Swedish or Ricinus communis in Latin) contains the same type of toxin as Escherichia coli (pathotype EHEC) and Shigella dysenteriae. The photo was taken outside the Academic hospital in Uppsala last year by Karl-Erik Johansson. Date: 2010-10-26.

Today it was written in Svenska Dagbladet (a daily journal in Sweden) that “A new bacterium transmitts ehec”. It is unfortunately a very common mistake among Swedish journalists to confuse the bacterium with the disease. Correctly, it should have been written “A new variant of the bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli), pathotype EHEC, causes hemorrhagic colitis in humans”. EHEC means enterohemorrhagic E. coli and does not refer to the disease. It would also be correct to refer to the disease as an EHEC infection. As a serious complication of an EHEC infection, HUS (hemolytic uremic syndrome) may occur among young or elderly persons. Cattle may be carriers of  Escherichia coli (E. coli), pathotype EHEC. Cattle do not contract the disease, but may transmitt the bacterium by direct contact or via contaminated water and vegetables to humans. More information about enterohemorrhagic E. coli and E. coli of other pathotypes can be found in the introduction to a recent thesis from the Swedish University of Acricultural Sciences by Erik Eriksson.

 

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