EHEC danger not averted?

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EHEC will continue to be a health risk in the future

The danger from EHEC is not averted. As experts at the EHEC World Congress emphasized last week, no further new infections have occurred after the end of the EHEC epidemic in Germany due to the causative EHEC pathogens O104: H4. But there are innumerable variants of the intestinal bacteria from the genus Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli, so that there will still be a certain health risk from this direction in the future.

The German EHEC expert Prof. Dr. Helge Karch from the Institute for Hygiene at the University Hospital Münster (UKM) contributed 15 contributions to the EHEC World Congress VTEC 2012. On Friday, Krach said the good news was that “the outbreak strain at the time had not caused any diseases this year. The bad news is that there are other strains that can cause disease. ”So the EHEC danger is by no means averted, but simply does not appear at the moment.

Number of EHEC infections in Germany manageable The cause of the EHEC epidemic was the EHEC pathogen O104: H4, which not only triggered the usual EHEC symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, but particularly often serious complications - the so-called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) - resulted. In the worst case, the patients suffered fatal kidney failure. A total of 50 fatalities were recorded in the EHEC epidemic last year. After the source of the germs was identified, the number of infections declined rapidly and since then, no further new infections with the particularly aggressive pathogen strain have occurred. Nevertheless, the danger from EHEC has not been finally averted. Every year around 1,000 patients in Germany contract an EHEC infection, which means that, according to the UKM press release from Friday, Germany ranks “at the lowest end of the scale of the large industrialized nations”.

Global cooperation in the fight against EHEC is required In most cases, an EHEC infection is associated with severe gastrointestinal complaints, but does not normally pose a life-threatening risk for the patients. However, 42 types of EHEC are known which could result in kidney failure , explained Prof. Karch. The pathogen strain from last year is no longer virulent today, but the experts warn that other EHEC strains could take its place. "If a new outbreak should occur, it will be caused by a different variant," emphasized Karch. According to the Münster-based EHEC expert, "the difficulty is making a prediction as to which of these strains it will be." To avoid outbreaks comparable to those of last year, scientists are already networked across Europe, "but I think that we have to do it worldwide, ”continues Karch. Because of the globalization of the international flow of goods, the pathogens can spread worldwide. The triggers of the EHEC epidemic were probably imported with fenugreek seeds from Egypt last year.

Patients still suffer from the consequences of the EHEC infection To this day, according to the experts, numerous people in Germany are suffering from the consequences of the EHEC epidemic. A double-digit number of those affected are still struggling with the consequences, such as kidney damage, and around five percent of patients who suffered from haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) are, according to Professor Hermann-Joseph Pavenstädt from the University Hospital of Münster, still today still in treatment, which corresponds to approximately 40 patients. At the UKM, treatments for EHEC patients were quite successful last year and almost all patients have completely recovered from their illness, the clinic reports in its press release on Friday. "After the sometimes very difficult course of the disease, this is a great success", emphasized Prof. Pavenstädt and added: "We hope that this positive course will continue in the coming months and years." Cooperation with resident doctors is regularly checked. ”According to Prof. Norbert Roeder, Medical Director and CEO of the UKM,“ the EHEC outbreak made it clear how important it is for health care and research to work well together. ”Prof. Roeder was particularly pleased that "That the health status of our patients is so positive today thanks to the excellent care."

Improved therapy for EHEC infections? Regarding the treatment of infections with aggressive variants of Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli, Prof. Karch said: "One is on the way to finding one's own therapies for EHEC patients", but "it will take a few more years until they are available Preventive measures such as the vaccination of cattle - as a skin reservoir of the EHEC pathogens - are also currently being investigated, according to the expert. (Fp)

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