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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Health Update

Air Date: Week of January 26, 2001

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Transcript

TOOMEY: University of Wisconsin researchers have cracked the genetic code of a deadly strain of e. coli. E. coli 0157:H7, as it's affectionately known, is a bacterium that causes about 75,000 cases of food-borne illness each year in the U.S. Turns out this strain of toxic e. coli has 1,300 more genes than its harmless e. coli cousin. And a good chunk of those genes once belonged to other types of bacteria. Scientists think invading viruses transported the foreign genes from other microorganisms. The extra genes may help explain why this particular e. coli infection is so hard to treat. They may produce additional toxins or help the bacterium withstand the body's defense against infection, fever. Now that they have this blueprint, researchers hope to develop a more sensitive diagnostic test and vaccine for the disease. And that's this week's health update. I'm Diane Toomey.

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