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Scientists in NIAID labs and NIAID-supported scientists are using basic, clinical, and applied research to better understand how to detect, treat, and prevent foodborne diseases.

NIAID supports several research studies on Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), including E. coli O157:H7. Researchers have sequenced the genome of E. coli O157:H7 and compared it with the genome of the harmless E. coli K12. Seventy percent of the two genomes are identical, and the genome of E. coli O157:H7 is about 30 percent larger than K12. As researchers compare and contrast these and other strains of E. coli, their ability to answer key questions in evolution and disease processes will become easier.

Researchers are developing and testing monoclonal antibodies to treat STEC infection, thus preventing hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) from developing. Investigators are further defining the ways by which the Shiga toxins produced by STEC result in the kidney damage leading to HUS. (HUS, a serious complication of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, can lead to kidney failure.) The primary goal of this research is to better understand how kidney disease progresses. Researchers are developing antitoxins that may help prevent HUS from developing in infected children.

Researchers also are exploring vaccines to prevent STEC in animals and humans.

NIAID-supported scientists discovered that children with bloody diarrhea should not be treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics can lead to the release of more bacterial toxins and increase kidney damage, including subsequent HUS.

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Last Updated June 02, 2011