Escherichia coli (E. coli) was discovered in 1884 by the microbiologist Theodore Eschrich – hence its name. It is a Gram-negative bacterium and resides in the human and animal gut as a normal part of the microbial population, it is therefore referred to as a ‘coliform.’ The spread of coliforms, including E. coli, from the gut to everyday objects like skin, computer keyboards, money and door handles, called faecal contamination, is a common process. Here are five facts about E. coli you may not know.
- It is the most common cause of non-nosocomial urinary tract infection (UTI).
E. coli commonly causes infections of the urinary tract in people not admitted to hospital (non-nosocomial). It is also the cause of various other infections, such as food poisoning, septicaemia, neonatal meningitis and gastroenteritis.
- E. coli causes infections by producing toxins.
In order to begin an infection, E. coli must release toxins which allow the bacterium to bind to the lining of the gut. It can then enter the body and cause symptoms of disease such as the diarrhoea associated with food poisoning.
- How severe you suffer depends on the type of E. coli you have.
E. coli exists as different types – scientists separate them as strains according to their antigens and virulence factors. The strain called O157:H7 is regarded as the most potent type of E. coli because the infection it causes can easily be fatal.
- Why is O157 infection so serious?
Scientists know that a minimum number of microbes is needed to begin an infection, called the infectious dose. Often this number is very high – many thousands of microbial cells must gain entry to the body before symptoms of infection appear. Unfortunately, E. coli O157’s infectious dose is incredibly low – just 10 E. coli cells can result in bloody diarrhoea, severe to fatal haemorrhagic colitis and the severe kidney disorder, haemolytic uremic syndrome in which the kidneys cease functioning.
- E. coli can also be our friend.
In the laboratory, it can be used to make useful substances, like human insulin, human growth factor, taxol (a cancer treatment) and epidermal growth factor (used to treat burns and wounds).
BioCote antimicrobial technology is proven effective against E. coli on a daily basis, as this is one of the bacteria specified by ISO22196:2011.