E. Coli O157:NM, the strain involved in the Mcnees Meats ground beef E. coli outbreak in Michigan, is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and yes, in the most severe cases, kidney failure induced by the development of HUS. E.coli O157: NM differs from E. Coli O157:H7, its more common relative, in that it lacks the flagellar H antigen, making it non-motile (NM).

E. coli O157:NM is just like E. coli O157:H7 in the most dangerous way possible:  just like O157:H7 and certain other strains of E. coli (O26, O145, and O11 to name a few), it produces shiga-toxins.  Shiga toxins released into the colon by E. coli bacteria are absorbed into intestinal capillaries, and from there into the systemic circulatory system.  Once in the blood, shiga-toxins can initiate a chain reaction of events that results in the destruction of large amounts of red blood cells and platelets. 

Victims can become badly anemic (loss of red blood cells) and thrombocytopenic (loss of platelets), and the cellular debris from this destructive process can accumulate, and cause microscopic blockages, in the kidney’s filtering units.  Kidney failure, which is the third characteristic of hemolytic uremic syndrome, can lead to dialysis and even death.  HUS happens in about 10% of those infected by E. coli O157:H7 or other shiga toxin-producing E. coli, like E. coli O157:NM.