The E. coli outbreak in Europe has sickened more than 1,800 people, according the World Health Organization. But that's just cases drawn from hospital records. More people could be sick. And 18 have died, making this the deadliest recorded E. coli outbreak.
If that's not unnerving enough, only two antibiotics have a real chance at fighting this new strain of the bacteria. The strain is resistant to 14 others. But the two that it's susceptible to are, basically, the big guns, the drugs of last resort. (Some monster strains of E. coli can defeat those drugs, but there isn't one out there that can defend against everything we've got to throw at it. Yet.)
European authorities are warning against eating raw tomatoes, cucumbers, and salads. (From anywhere — it turns out that those Spanish cucumbers weren't the culprit here, which is unfortunate for the Spanish farmers and harvest workers who're losing big chunks of their income while people freak out, and also for German officials who are in the doghouse for pointing fingers at Spain.)
It seems pretty inevitable that someday soon a strain of E. coli that science can't fix is going to pop up. The only lesson to take away from this is: wash and cook your vegetables, thoroughly. And that raw food enthusiasts don't stand a chance in the coming Bacteria Wars.
- Why this E. coli outbreak has me scared, Scientific American
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