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Frequently Asked Questions about EHEC

BfR FAQs, 31 August 2007

The term EHEC stands for enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli. EHEC are Shiga-producing and verotoxin-producing Escherichia (E.) coli bacteria (STEC/VTEC). Shiga toxins and verotoxins are virulent cell poisons that can trigger severe illnesses in man. In some cases symptoms may manifest like bloody diarrhoea and haemolytic-uraemic syndrome (HUS) that can result in renal failure.

EHEC O157:H7 is the most well-known representative of EHEC. This EHEC serotype is associated most frequently around the world with serious clinical pictures and outbreaks affecting many people. STEC/VTEC that belong to different E. coli serotypes from O157:H7 have now also been identified as EHEC. It is difficult to detect EHEC as the general properties of these bacteria do not differ from those of harmless E. coli bacteria in intestinal flora. In order to reliably identify EHEC, specialised laboratories have to determine Shiga toxins, verotoxins, other typical EHEC properties and the serotype.



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