Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria live in the intestines of people and animals, and are key to a healthy intestinal tract. Most E. coli strains are harmless, but some can cause diarrhea through contact with contaminated food or water while other strains can cause urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia.
Why Is the Study of E. coli a Priority for NIAID?
CDC estimates that 265,000 STEC infections occur each year in the United States. Approximately 36 percent of these infections are caused by E. coli O157:H7.
How Is NIAID Addressing This Critical Topic?
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 research to understand how E. coli bacteria cause illness and identify the best possible treatments for people with E. coli infections.
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.
Researchers are exploring vaccines to prevent STEC in animals and humans.
NIAID Grantees Study How Bacteria Communicate and Compete
Scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara, recently studied a bacterial toxin delivery system used by different strains of bacteria to chemically communicate with one another and compete for the same ecological niche.