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India on high alert against deadly E. coli strain that causes kidney failure

Kounteya Sinha, TNN | Jun 4, 2011, 04.39am IST

NEW DELHI: India is on high alert against the deadly strain of Shiga toxin-producing E coli, that has infected over 1,700 people across 12 European nations. The deadly food-borne bacteria is causing haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) or kidney failure.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has informed its officials posted in the five major ports and four airports which receive imports, to watch out for all food items, especially fruits and vegetables, coming in from Europe. All such items will first be tested in FSSAI labs before being allowed into the country.

Speaking to TOI, FSSAI CEO Dr V N Gaur said, “We are keeping a close watch on all imports into India, especially food items. Records, however, show no food items have come to India in the past five months from Europe.”

He said, “We have alerted our staff in the major ports like Kolkata, Haldia, Mumbai, Chennai and JNPT and airports in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata to keep a close watch.”

So far, the outbreak has claimed at least 17 lives in Europe. Besides Germany, which is believed to the first country that was affected, the bacterial infection has also been reported from Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Britain and the United States.

The World Health Organisation has urged countries not to impose any trade restrictions in the face of this outbreak. However, Russia and Belgium have clamped a ban on vegetables from Spain and Germany.

E coli is common bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract and part of the normal bacterial flora. However, some E coli strains are able to produce a toxin that could produce serious infection. Humans acquire the infection by consuming contaminated food or water. Following an incubation period of about 3-4 days, a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms appear, ranging from mild to severe bloody diarrhoea, mostly without fever. The one causing infection now is a highly virulent mutated strain.

WHO recently stated that this strain of E coli “is a unique strain that has never been isolated from patients before” and there may be “various characteristics that make it more virulent and toxin-producing”.

WHO says that HUS is characterized by acute renal failure, haemolytic anaemia and thrombocytopenia. It is estimated that up to 10% of patients with this latest infection may develop HUS, with a case-fatality rate ranging from 3% to 5%.

Overall, HUS is the most common cause of acute renal failure in young children. It can cause neurological complications (such as seizure, stroke and coma) in 25% of HUS patients and chronic renal sequelae, usually mild, in around 50% of survivors.

Source:- Times of India

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