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NIAID Research on Shiga Toxin-Producing E. coli (STEC)

NIAID supports research to understand how Escherichia coli bacteria (esh-er-EE-chia KOL-eye), better known as E. coli, cause illness and identify the best possible treatments for people with E. coli infections.

Multiple teams of scientists are looking into how E. coli causes disease, including Enterohemmaorrhagic Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (known to scientists as EHEC/STEC). EHEC/STEC causes severe disease, and sometimes death. Researchers are uncovering the basic mechanisms of how the bacteria damages human cells and systems, and identifying factors associated with the severest forms of the disease.

Recent Research

By studying the human genome, researchers have identified special, small molecules that stop bacteria from producing toxins and other molecules that can cause a severe bacterial infection and illness or death.

NIAID-funded research has uncovered complex communication systems in bacteria that allow pathogens such as E. coli 0157:H7 to hide until the bacteria launch coordinated attacks with overwhelming numbers of bacteria.

Other researchers have discovered that antibiotic therapy does not help people with bloody diarrhea, and can even cause more harm during some types of severe infections.

Researchers are designing and testing monoclonal antibodies and other therapies to treat STEC infection before it progresses into severe, life-threatening forms.

NIAID also provides funding to develop models for testing potential medicines before they are used in human clinical trials.

Last Updated June 07, 2011