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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Mixed, but Promising, Results in the E. coli Wars

Study shows potential advance in fighting E. coli

Researchers have developed a new class of inhibitors that neutralize toxic bacteria produced by E. coli, the cause of most food poisoning outbreaks, according to a new study. The new inhibitor potentially represents an important advance over standard antibiotics, said the study published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Used with customary therapeutics, the inhibitors could prove effective against numerous types of bacteria that release soluble toxins such as enterohemorrhagic E. coli, said David Bundle, principal author of the study. The inhibitor, called (S)-PolyBAIT, protected mice against the effects of a dose of the Shiga toxin that causes the hemolytic-uremic syndrome associated with E. coli food poisoning, according to the researchers. The inhibitors offer a more promising approach than antibiotics alone, which can destroy cells and release bacterial toxins into the bloodstream.

E. coli vaccine OK’d for cattle

A new E. coli vaccine for cattle given the green light by federal regulators is an encouraging development in food safety, but the threat posed by the deadly bacteria can never be eradicated, the lead investigator into the tainted water tragedy in Walkerton, Ont., said Monday. Bioniche Life Sciences Inc. announced Monday that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has approved the vaccine Econiche to help reduce the proliferation of E. coli O157:H7 in cattle, in turn decreasing the risk of the bacteria spreading to humans.

Red meat, milk lovers more susceptible to E. coli

Lovers of red meat and milk may be more susceptible to a major strain of Escherichia coli (E. coli), which causes severe diarrhea, researchers in Australia said. In an article published in Nature, they said red meat and cow’s milk contain a type of sugar that the Shiga toxigenic E. coli bacterium binds readily to, making people sick. "Frequent consumption of (red meat and milk) would allow incorporation of the sugar into our cells and when we eat meat infected with E. coli, it sensitizes our cells to attack by this toxin," said Travis Beddoe, a research fellow at the Protein Crystallography Unit of Australia’s Monash University. Using human gut and kidney tissues, the researchers found that toxins from E. coli would only bind to tissues that were flushed with the sugar. "The toxins couldn’t bind to human tissues in the absence of the sugar, but when we fed human cells with this (sugar) … there was strong binding and increase in virulence and toxicity," Beddoe told Reuters in a telephone interview. The sugars can reside anywhere along the human digestive tract, although they tend to concentrate in the stomach and kidneys — sometimes for up to a few days. "If we drink milk or have a lot of red meat intake we would be replenishing those sugars, they would be there all the time," Beddoe said. The Shiga toxigenic E. coli is a major pathogenic form of E. coli. The sugar, called N-glycolylneuraminic acid-containing saccharides, is abundant in cow’s milk and red meat, but low or absent in poultry and fish.