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Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli, or EHEC for short, are E. coli bacteria able to produce toxins in the body, causing the currently occurring severe EHEC infections.

New strain

The pathogen responsible for the current EHEC outbreak in Germany has been identified as HUSEC 041 – a new pathogen consisting of two different E. coli strains. According to scientists, this new strain has been created by horizontal gene transfer, i.e. the exchange of genes independent of propagation paths. The new EHEC strain more often leads to particularly severe courses such as HUS (see glossary) than other EHEC strains presumably by having acquired specific gene sequences.

Investigations of the Institute of Hygiene at the University of Munster, Germany, had already proved that the identified EHEC strain is an ESBL producer. Bacteria that produce extended-spectrum beta-lactamase are resistant to nearly all beta-lactam antibiotics, including penicillin, cephalosporin, and aztreonam. Only carbapenems of the group of beta-lactam antibiotics are effective.

No resistance to disinfectants

The EHEC strains resistance to antibiotics does not have direct consequences on the treatment of EHEC patients, as antibiotic therapy is contraindicated for EHEC infection: the destruction of bacteria would release even more toxins and make the symptoms worse.

Bactericidal disinfectants suitable

The EHEC pathogen is transmitted by the faecal-oral route. Hence, depending on the infection risk,


are central to the prevention of infections.

Disinfection during EHEC outbreaks requires disinfectants with proven efficacy against bacteria, tested in accordance with the European standard methods EN and listed by the Association for Applied Hygiene (VAH) or the RKI (activity area A/bacteria). The correspondingly proven bactericidal activity belongs to the basic efficacy requirements alcohol-based hand disinfectants approved for the German market have to fulfill – products such as Sterillium® (available in pharmacies) feature this bactericidal activity.

Detailed information on risk-related measures for preventing EHEC infections:

EHEC – Information for healthcare facilities
(PDF / status: 17/06/11)

EHEC – Information for end-users
(PDF / status: 17/06/11)

Haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS)

Please find further information on Haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) in our glossary.