Chapter 6 : Birth of a Pathogen

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O157:H7 first attracted the attention of food safety experts in 1982, when it caused outbreaks of hemorrhagic colitis (bloody diarrhea) in customers of two McDonald’s outlets-one in Michigan and the other in Oregon. It was labeled an emerging pathogen and joined the ranks of other newly recognized pathogens, such as Ebola virus and human immunodeficiency virus. It's not often that microbiologists have the chance to witness the birth of a new pathogen. The evolutionary trail of O157:H7 is marked by a series of clues contained in its genetic code. Today’s generation of microbiologists and molecular biologists have the tools and the knowledge to follow those clues back in time and deduce the evolutionary path down which O157: H7 has traveled. Although hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is the most common complication of O157:H7 infections, it is not the only one. A similar syndrome, known as thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, or TTP, was identified in 1924 and was first linked to O157:H7 in the mid-1980s. Samples of the raw hamburger patties, however, appeared pathogen free. Epidemiologists quickly traced the source of the infections to hamburgers from several different Jack in the Box outlets. The Jack in the Box outbreak caught the attention of government regulators, consumers, and the food industry in a way that previous O157: H7 outbreaks had failed to do.

Citation: Entis P. 2007. Birth of a Pathogen, p 89-110. In Food Safety. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816186.ch6

Key Concept Ranking

Escherichia coli
Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome
Shiga Toxin 1
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Figure 6.1

Proposed evolution of O157:H7. A* and D* are theoretical strains, not yet isolated in the laboratory. Figure is adapted from Feng et al., 1998 ( ). GLU, glucuronidase; SOR, sorbitol fermentation; Stx1 and Stx2, toxins. A, (theoretical) ancestral strain; B, O55:H7 GUD+ SOR+; C, O55:H7 GUD+ SOR+ Stx2+; D, (theoretical) O157:H7 GUD+ SOR+ Stx2+; E, O157:H- GUD+ SOR+ Stx2+; F, O157:H7 GUD+ SOR- Stx2+ Stx1+; G, O157:H7 GUD- SOR- Stx2+ Stx1+.

Citation: Entis P. 2007. Birth of a Pathogen, p 89-110. In Food Safety. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816186.ch6
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Generic image for table
Table 6.1

Domestic and wild animal reservoirs of O157

Citation: Entis P. 2007. Birth of a Pathogen, p 89-110. In Food Safety. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816186.ch6
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Table 6.2

The O157:H7 and O55:H7 clone complex ( )

Citation: Entis P. 2007. Birth of a Pathogen, p 89-110. In Food Safety. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816186.ch6
Generic image for table
Table 6.3

Characteristics of HUS and TTP ( )

Citation: Entis P. 2007. Birth of a Pathogen, p 89-110. In Food Safety. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816186.ch6
Generic image for table
Table 6.4

Meat-borne disease outbreaks due to O157:H7

Citation: Entis P. 2007. Birth of a Pathogen, p 89-110. In Food Safety. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816186.ch6

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