The Cleveland Ohio Health Department said moments ago that a 6 or 7-year-old girl died from E. coli O157:H7 last weekend and that the death (likely due to Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome) appears linked to E. coli O157:H7 illnesses in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Illinois that have led FSIS and CDC health investigators to ground beef produced by Valley Meats, LLC of Coal Valley, Illinois.

According to Misti Crane of THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH:

The Ohio Department of Health contacted the U.S. Department of Agriculture with a report of three genetically linked cases of E. coli O157:H7 in the Cleveland area earlier this month.  All three were sickened in mid-April, but do not have any connection to one another, said ODH spokesman Kristopher Weiss.  They were classified as a cluster when the genetic fingerprints of the bacteria that had infected each person matched, he said. The illnesses were then linked to products containing meat from Valley Meats.  The people who were sickened were a 3-year-old girl, a 24-year-old man and a 71-year-old man. Two of the three were hospitalized and all have since recovered, Weiss said.

Leila Atassi and Harlan Spector of the CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER are also covering the story:

Health officials did not identify the girl or provide details of the circumstances that led to her death. But Cleveland Health Director Matthew Carroll said the case might be the latest in a cluster of E. coli infections traced to Valley Meats LLC, of Coal Valley, Ill.

The company pulled nearly 100,000 pounds of hamburger patties after a U.S. Department of Agriculture investigation confirmed that three Cleveland-area residents were infected by eating the same tainted ground beef. Carroll said two local restaurants, one of them in Cuyahoga County, might also be involved and will be investigated.

The three who grew ill – a 3-year-old girl, a 24-year-old man and a 71-year-old man – have recovered, said Kristopher Weiss, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Health. Health officials determined the cases originated from a common source when they found matches among the genetic fingerprints of the bacteria that infected each person, Weiss said. The state reported its findings to the USDA on May 13. The brands included in the recall are 3-S, Grillmaster, J and B, Klub, Thick ‘n Savory, Ultimate, and more than a dozen generic brands.

A few weeks ago I wrote "E. coli O157:H7 Season is Nearly Upon Us – Will it be 2005 and 2006 or 2007 and 2008?"

From 1993 – 2003 we represented over 1,000 people sickened and families who suffered losses due to E. coli O157:H7-tainted hamburger.  From 2003 – spring of 2007, the number of ill and the number of recalls dropped significantly.  In fact, in 2006, less that 200,000 pounds of E. coli-tainted hamburger was recalled.  However, since the Spring of 2007 nearly 42,000,000 pounds of hamburger has been recalled.  Clearly, there is a problem.  Earlier this year I wrote "Open Letter to a New Under Secretary for Food Safety – FSIS – The End of E. coli Conservatism," in part to start a discussion about why we are again seeing E. coli illnesses and deaths and in part to encourage the new administration to act.  The new administration is taking new steps, but much more needs to be done.

For an explaination of the movie clip above:

• The surfaces of intestinal epithelial cells are covered with
microvilli. Here a single E. coli bacterium latches on to the surface
of a cell using long, tether-like pili. Pili are made of strands of long
protein filaments that can adhere to the microvilli on the surface of
intestinal cells.

• Once in contact with the bacterium, the microvilli disappear
from a patch of the cell surface, the bacterium comes into closer
contact with the intestinal cell surface, and the next phase in the
infection process begins.

• The E. coli bacterium now uses a specialized injector system to
deliver some of its own proteins into the cell that it is invading.
The E. coli bacterium uses the injector system, much like a
syringe, to introduce several bacterial proteins into the intestinal
cell that force it to cooperate in its own infection.

• A needlelike tube (purple) projects from the bacterium to the
intestinal cell surface. Now two proteins (green) travel through the
tube to form an opening in the intestinal membrane through which
additional bacterial proteins can move into the cell.

• With the tube and pore complete, the bacterium now injects
another protein (red) into the cell. This protein inserts them into
the intestinal cell membrane. A portion of the protein projects
beyond the cell surface and binds to a protein on the bacterial cell
surface (blue cups). Now the membranes of the intestinal cell and
the bacterium are locked together. These proteins become
phosphorylated by intestinal cell proteins (blue balls).

• The bacterium is now firmly bound to the intestinal cell
surface. Pedestal formation, a very active and striking process,
begins. Another intestinal protein (orange) binds to a portion of
the bacterial protein that is inside the cell. Once these proteins
bind, long strands of actin (yellow) start to form. The actin
filaments build up directly beneath where the bacterium is bound
to the intestinal cell. As the actin filaments lengthen, they push the
cell membrane upward, and the bacterium becomes perched atop
a pedestal formed by the intestinal cell.

• Once many E. coli bacteria have adhered to the intestinal
lining, symptoms of the infection commence.