Newswise — From tiny villages in developing nations to suburban kitchens in the U.S., dangerous strains of E. coli bacteria sicken millions of people each year—and kill untold numbers of children.
Now, researchers from the University of Michigan Health System say they have a better understanding of what is going on in the guts of E. coli victims, and what might be done to prevent or treat it.
The research shows that bacteria that usually live in our digestive tracts compete against invading bacteria such as E. coli to help our bodies fend them off, and that the invaders depend on certain genes to gain a temporary upper hand in that battle. This advantage gives the bacteria just enough time to reproduce, adhering to the cells that line the gut, and cause the symptoms such as diarrhea that expel their offspring from the body so they can find a new host, particularly in parts of the world with poor sanitation.
The findings, published in the journal Science on its Science Express website, point to potential ways to prevent or treat infections caused by enterohemorrhagic or enteropathogenic E. coli. — the types that can lurk in undercooked ground beef, unpasteurized milk, untreated drinking water, and contaminated produce.