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Source of E.Coli 055 Outbreak Still a Mystery

November 2, 2015
Public Health

An investigation into an outbreak of E.Coil 055 which resulted in 10 children being admitted to hospital in Dorset, is still no closer to finding the source of the infection.

Whilst E.Coli 055 has been responsible for outbreaks in Ireland, France and Italy, it has never been found in the UK. The pathogen was first identified in June 2014 and since then there have been 30 cases, some of which have gone on to develop haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) which can lead to kidney failure.

NoĆ«leen McFarland, consultant in health protection for Public Health England admits they are still searching for the source of the outbreak. “When it was confirmed we knew we had uncovered something unusual that hadn’t been seen in the UK before. Normally we would have been able to identify a source because our investigation would have found some commonalities,” she said. “The only commonality in these cases is they live in, have contact with people in, or have travelled through Dorset.”

People infected with E.Coli 055 can act as asymptomatic carriers making tracing contacts even more difficult. Scientists are now working on a new ultra-sensitive test for the 055 strain which they hope will be ready for use on animals in the New Year. To date, tests on cattle and sheep, which act as vectors for the more common 0157 strain have proved negative, although the 055 strain has been isolated from cats owned by some of the infected families.