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The evolution of E. coli bacteria is the subject of a recent study

New evidence shows that genetic material from E. coli in farm animals may have contributed to the evolution of dangerous pandemic strains of E. coli in humans. Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a type of bacteria that can be found in the environment, foods, and the intestines of humans and animals. 

E. coli is a big and diverse bacterial group. Although the majority of E. coli strains are safe, some can cause illness. E.coli can cause disorders like diarrhoea if it has or acquires characteristics that allow it to thrive outside of the stomach, while others can cause urinary tract infections, respiratory illness, pneumonia, and other illnesses.

E. Coli-related diseases such as urinary tract infections and sepsis kill over 11 million people worldwide each year. E. Coli can also cause meningitis, which is an infection that affects the brain and spinal cord. The goal of a study recently published in Nature Communication was to better understand the evolution and genetic properties of an Emerging strain of E. coli known as ST58.

Dr. Cameron Reid of the University of Technology Sydney led the research. The findings have far-reaching consequences for public health policies in the food sector, veterinary medicine, and clinical settings.

The scientists investigated E. Coli ST58 genomes from over 700 human, animal, and other environmental sources around the world to look for clues as to why it is a growing cause of sepsis and urinary tract infections, according to the report.
Because of the frightening proportion of infections generated by this strain over a 12-year period, France was included. Drug resistance is also higher in ST58 than in other strains.

Dr. Reid said, “We found that E. coli ST58 from pigs, cattle, and chickens contain pieces of genetic material, called ColV plasmids, which are characteristic of this strain of disease-causing E. coli,”.

ColV plasmids are virulence plasmids linked to extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli in humans, according to the study. They also enhance the risk of antibiotic resistance. This pathotype of E. coli causes a variety of extraintestinal illnesses in humans and animals, and its isolates are genetically varied.

The researchers point out that “zoonosis” should be viewed as a complicated process resulting from a wide network of interactions between groups of E. coli (and other bacteria), as well as the selective pressures they face in both humans and animals.

“In a globalized world, eminently susceptible to rapid dissemination of pathogens, the importance of pro-active management of microbial threats to public health cannot be understated.”

In order for infectious disease public health to transition smoothly from a reactive to a primarily pro-active discipline in the future, there will be a need for collaboration between ongoing research and government, public health bodies, food producers, and clinicians, as well as participation in surveillance of a variety of non-human sources of microbes. In what is known as a ‘One Health’ concept, this would cover domestic and wild animals – particularly birds – food goods, wastewater, and rivers. Some bacteria, such as ST58 E. coli, have few barriers between their hosts and habitats as they become increasingly interconnected.

“A One Health genomic pathogen surveillance system would be a revolution within public health and do much to break down historically human-centric approaches devoid of connection with the world around us.”

The evolution of E. coli bacteria is the subject of a recent study

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