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Escherichia coli

Escherichia coli are a naturally occurring germ (commensal) in the intestine of birds and warm-blooded mammals. It is likewise an integral part of the intestinal flora of humans. Certain strains of Escherichia coli can cause serious diseases in animals and humans.

Clinical picture and sources of infection

The significance of Escherichia coli as a cause for infections in humans has already been known since the 1920s. E. coli play an important role as a frequent cause of bacterial urinary tract infections. Furthermore, they are feared as a cause of blood poisoning and hospital infections. The germs are, therefore, also referred to as extra-intestinal pathogenic E. coli (ExPEC), ie as pathogens which can cause diseases outside the intestine.

Since the 1940s E. coli has, however, also become increasingly known as a cause of diseases affecting the gastrointestinal tract of humans. These pathogens are also referred to as enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC), ie pathogens affecting the gastrointestinal tract. EPEC infections were the largest cause of gastrointestinal infections (gastroenteritis) in babies and infants in industrial states for two decades after the end of World War II. Improved hospital hygiene and better living conditions contributed towards a decline of EPEC infections in industrial states; in developing countries they still play an important role as pathogens.

Other E. coli affecting the intestine such as enteroinvasive E. coli (EIEC) and enterotoxic E. coli.(ETEC), have a particularly high significance in countries of warmer climatic zones with poor hygiene standards whereas enteroaggregative E. coli (EAGEC) are also relevant as a diarrhoea cause in industrial states.

E. coli strains STEC and EHEC as causes for bloody diarrhoeas and the haemolytic-uraemic syndrome

Some variants of E. coli were described for the first time as zoonosis pathogens in 1982 after the Vero (VT) or Shiga toxins (Stx) had been identified which can deploy a considerable organ damaging effect. These E. coli VTEC/STEC cause serious diarrhoea in humans. Some of their representatives, which are also referred to as enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC), are known as causes for bloody diarrhoea (haemorrhagic colitis) and kidney failure (haemolytic uraemic syndrome, HUS).

The E. coli strains STEC and EHEC occur naturally in the intestine of ruminants such as cattle, sheep and goats. Animals excreting STEC/EHEC germs do not show any symptoms of the disease. The bacteria get into the environment through faeces.

In the field of food products in particular animal foods such as meat and milk products are at risk as far as STEC/EHEC germ contamination is concerned. The direct transmission from animals to humans and from humans to humans plays an important role at the propagation of STEC/EHEC infections.

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Opinion

 (12)
Date Title Size
21.04.2020
BfR opinion No 021/2020
Reclaimed waste water: preventing bacterial pathogens on fresh fruit and vegetables 576.4 KB
PDF-File
19.04.2018
BfR Opinion No 009/2018
Shiga toxin-producing E. coli in food: Prediction of the disease-causing potential of the various strains not yet possible 43.8 KB
PDF-File
23.11.2011
BfR Opinion No. 049/2011
EHEC Outbreak 2011: Updated Analysis as a Basis for Recommended Measures 166.6 KB
PDF-File
26.07.2011
Updated BfR Opinion No. 031/2011
Relevance of EHEC O104:H4 in fenugreek seeds which are processed into other foods than sprouts and germ buds 114.4 KB
PDF-File
05.07.2011
Updated BfR Opinion No. 023/2011
Relevance of sprouts and germ buds as well as seeds for sprouts production in the current EHEC O104:H4 outbreak event in May and June 2011 433.4 KB
PDF-File
18.06.2011
Opinion No. 021/2011 of BfR
EHEC: Observance of general hygiene rules is particularly important for the protection against infections 43.3 KB
PDF-File
07.06.2011
Opinion No. 019/2011 of BfR
Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) O104:H4: a brief bacteriological intro-ductory profile 25.5 KB
PDF-File
06.06.2011
Opinion No. 018/2011 of BfR
Sprouts and germ buds as possible cause for the EHEC infections: BfR supports Lower Saxony at the clarification 36.5 KB
PDF-File
06.06.2011
Opinion No. 020/2011 of BfR
EHEC: What is the role of BfR in the current EHEC outbreak event? 42.6 KB
PDF-File
31.05.2011
Opinion No. 016/2011 of BfR
EHEC pathogen not yet typed: tomatoes, cucumbers and salads should nonetheless continue not to be consumed raw 29.2 KB
PDF-File
28.05.2011
BfR Opinion No. 015/2011, 26 May 2011
EHEC: Consumers to continue to refrain from eating tomatoes, cucumbers and green salads raw 29.1 KB
PDF-File
25.05.2011
Joint Opinion No. 014/2011 of BfR and RKI
Preliminary results of the EHEC/HUS Study 27.1 KB
PDF-File

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Other documents

 (1)
Date Title Size
03.09.2012
Minutes of an expert discussion held at the BfR
Hygiene in sprout production 50.0 KB
PDF-File

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Press releases

 (15)
Date Title Keywords
07.08.2015
20/2015
Civil courts assess the recommendations made by the BfR in the EHEC crisis in 2011 as lawful EHEC - enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, zoonoses
23.11.2012
40/2012
Pathogens in food: Progress and new challenges for zoonosis control food safety , noroviruses , salmonella , zoonoses
13.06.2012
20/2012
Protection from EHEC: careful handling of raw milk, raw meat and sprouts necessary EHEC - enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, zoonoses
23.12.2011
45/2011
EHEC outbreak 2011: summary from a risk assessment perspective EHEC - enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, zoonoses
29.11.2011
41/2011
EHEC outbreak 2011: Recommendations on the handling of sprouts EHEC - enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, zoonoses
21.07.2011
23/2011
EHEC: BfR, BVL and RKI issue specified consumption recommendations for uncooked sprouts and shoots (germ buds) EHEC - enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, zoonoses
05.07.2011
21/2011
EHEC O104:H4 outbreak event in Germany clarified: sprouts of fenugreek seeds imported from Egypt as underlying cause EHEC - enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, zoonoses
12.06.2011
18/2011
EHEC outbreak: BfR also advises against the consumption of home-grown raw sprouts and germ buds EHEC - enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, zoonoses
11.06.2011
17/2011
EHEC outbreak: BfR confirms contamination of sprouts with O104:H4 EHEC - enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, zoonoses
10.06.2011
16/2011
EHEC: Current State of Knowledge Concerning Illnesses in Humans EHEC - enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, zoonoses
09.06.2011
15/2011
Consumption Recommendations to protect consumers from EHEC EHEC - enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, zoonoses
03.06.2011
14/2011
New epidemiological data corroborate existing recommendation on consumption by BfR
01.06.2011
13/2011
EHEC germs on Spanish cucumbers do not correspond to the pathogen type of the patients concerned EHEC - enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, zoonoses
31.05.2011
12/2011
BfR and ANSES develop test system for the identification of EHEC contaminations in foods EHEC - enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, zoonoses
14.01.2011
02/2011
EHEC infections can have serious consequences for children EHEC - enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, zoonoses

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