The Rise of the Toxic Menace Called E. Coli O157

The Rise of the Toxic Menace Called E. Coli O157

Postby Oscar » Thu Sep 21, 2023 11:23 am

The Rise of the Toxic Menace Called E. Coli O157

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Product of modern methods, the food poison that hit Calgary is fairly new. But Alberta’s no stranger to it.

Andrew Nikiforuk The Tyee September 21, 2023

In early September a biological bomb exploded in Calgary changing the lives of more than 300 children and their families.

The unwitting bomb assemblers worked at a cockroach-infested kitchen called Fueling Minds that supplied “real ingredients” to seven related daycare centres called Fueling Brains and four other institutions.

One of the “real ingredients” was Shiga toxin producing E. coli O157, or STEC, a deadly, relatively new food and water borne pathogen that emerged in the 1980s. It primarily and harmlessly resides in adult cattle and spreads via their prolific manure.

The Shiga toxin is classed as a bioterrorism agent by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and for good reason. It can cause bloody diarrhea, kidney failure, seizures and other organ damage. As few as 20 organisms can change a person’s life. The pathogen can survive freezing, resist drying and even survive unscathed in acidic environments or cold water.

The pathogen not only contaminates meat but a variety of leafy greens. It can be transmitted from person to person via unwashed hands.

STEC is particularly hard on children and the elderly. About one in 20 people infected develop severe renal failure known as hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS. The toxin can also target other organs such as the gut and the brain resulting in life-long complications.

No known cure exists for HUS. Management of the condition relies on rehydration, transfusions, anti-hypertensive medications or dialysis machines.

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