Wednesday, 15 June 2011

E coli threat: Indians safe from new strain of Escherichia coli threat thanks to gobar

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 13: About 5000 years of association with agriculture through natural manure has made Indians immune to outbreaks of Escherichia coli, though India is a refectory to this gut pathogen, points out the Indo-German team involved in unravelling the mystery of this dangerous bacterium.
The dung of cows and buffaloes contain enterohaemorrhogic E coli (EHEC), which is more harmful and virulent than the ordinary strains of E coli that live in human beings. But thanks to handling of natural manure in India in the form of gobar (cow dung) for almost five millennia, Indians have developed immunity to this virulent strain. It is the mutant of EHEC that is causing havoc in Germany and other European countries.
The team allays the fears of a possible spread of the new German strain of E coli in India through vegetables and fruits. "What is baffling is that India has never witnessed outbreaks of E coli though it could in fact be a refectory to
the pathogen because of unhygienic conditions," points out Dr Lothar Wieler, director of the Institute of Microbiology and Epizootics, Freie University, Germany.
Dr Lothar is involved with city research teams including those from the University of Hyderabad, CCMB and Mahavir Hospital on E coli research. India has witnessed regular outbreaks of cholera, but never institutionalised outbreaks of gastroenteritis caused by E coli unlike in Europe and the Americas. There have been only sporadic or isolated cases of E coli infections, though the compromised hygienic conditions in India could have actually triggered E coli outbreaks.
The inherent immunity in Indians to E coli has now forced the German teams to trace the history of the bacteria by taking to the fields going after cows, trash and soil to know the natural descent of the outbreak strain. The German
researchers hope to find out the "kinship" of the new strain in their continent. The new killer strain has evolved from the two German strains (01-09591 originally isolated in 2001 and TY2482 from the 2011 outbreak) though accumulated mutations/plasmids that conferred ability to resist many additional types of antibiotics.
"As there have been no institutionalised outbreaks, Indians could actually be immune to the EHEC like strains - so no worries," Lothar pointed out. 

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