fsis.bmpNew reports link a fourth death to an outbreak of E. coli O111 in Japan.  E. coli O111 is one of a number of pathogenic strains of the E. coli bacteria.  The most notorious of such strains is E. coli O157:H7.  E. coli O111 and other shiga-toxin producing strains of E. coli, however, are more than capable of causing serious illness, including hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), and death.

Alarmingly, non-O157:H7 strains of E. coli are not currently considered adulterants by the USDA.   Marler Clark has been waiting for more than a year and a half for a response to its petition to the USDA to regulate six of the most common non-O157:H7 strains.   

Here in the U.S. E. coli O111 was the culprit in a very large restaurant based outbreak in Oklahoma in 2008.   Here is a summary of one of the hundreds of persons sickened in that outbreak, Shiloh Johnson, one of those petitioning the USDA for change:

Shiloh Johnson developed bloody diarrhea, and was hospitalized on August 22, 2008.  Once admitted, Shiloh’s stool sample was tested and subsequently cultured positive for E. coli O111. Immediately after the start of the hospitalization, she began to suffer from hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Her kidneys failed and her red blood cell and platelet counts plummeted. With a complete loss of kidney function, she required dialysis to survive. She was placed on continuous renal replacement therapy.

Forty-eight hours into the dialysis treatment, disaster struck. Shiloh developed a significant pericardial effusion (fluid around the heart) with tamponade (stoppage of blood flow caused by fluid). She went into cardiorespiratory arrest. She was endotrachoeally intubated and the pericardial fluid was drained. She was given a round of epinephrine, and the arrest was reversed. Shiloh remained on a ventilator through September 12. Soon, the area around her lungs also became inundated with fluid, necessitating the placement of chest tubes.

Throughout this time, Shiloh experienced full renal failure. She received dialysis treatment around the clock. On September 10, her doctors placed a periotoneal catheter and switched her to peritoneal dialysis. The dialysis continued through September 27. She was finally discharged on October 3. By this point, her medical bills amounted to $450,000.

USDA, it’s time to make a change.