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E. Understanding E.coli Strain O157:H7

Narrator: This is Science Today. The recent E.coli contamination of spinach made national headlines and has spurred food safety experts to better understand the outbreak and the science behind food safety. Dean Cliver, a professor of food safety at the University of California, Davis 's School of Veterinary Medicine, says there are hundreds of strains of E.coli, but the one involved in the deadly outbreak, called E.coli O157:H7 has some particularly bad traits.

Cliver: It can attach to the intestinal lining, it attacks the intestinal lining, it produces toxins that get taken up into the bloodstream and can cause problems with blood clotting, cause kidney malfunctions and so on. So, it's a particularly bad actor. The other thing about it that's unique is back when I was learning about E.coli that can cause human illness, most of it came from people. This one has a reservoir in ruminants, especially cattle and so the cattle aren't ill, they're apparently healthy, but the can shed E.coli O157:H7 in ways that will threaten human health.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.