Alison Weiss, PhD, professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry and Microbiology in UC College of Medicine, has been awarded a four-year grant of $1.6 million from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to study Shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli 0157:H7, also sometimes referred to as Hamburger E. coli.
Hamburger E. coli is the cause of foodborne illness and is an infection that often leads to bloody diarrhea and can result in kidney failure. It is mostly associated with eating undercooked, contaminated ground beef, and can be spread by person-to-person contact. In severe cases it can be fatal.
The infection was first discovered in hamburger meat, but it is carried asymptotically by many creatures so anything that has fecal matter from cattle can contaminate food, says Weiss. Vegetables and fruits can also carry E. coli if contaminated with animal fecal matter during field irrigation or as a result of harvesting or preparation of produce. Human hygiene practices can also spread E. coli.
Shiga toxin producing E. coli (STEC), including 0157:H7, are an important cause of diarrheal disease, causing about 265,000 illnesses in the United States annually.