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Escherichia coli

 
 
Escherichia coli_Copyright Dennis Kunkel Microscopy, Inc.
Copyright Dennis Kunkel Microscopy, Inc.

Escherichia coli
is a Gram-negative, rod-shaped bacterium propelled by long, rapidly rotating flagella. It is part of the normal mouth and gut flora, where helps to protect the intestinal tract against unpleasant bacterial infections and aids in digestion.
 
Most strains of Escherichia coli are not pathogenic for humans. Because non-pathogenic Escherichia coli is a simple, free-living organism that can be easily cultivated in the laboratory, it has been used since the 1950s as a model system to study many fundamental processes in biology.
 
The pathogenic strains of Escherichia coli can cause an impressive variety of diseases in humans, most notably infections of the gastrointestinal tract (diarrhea and dysentery) and the urinary tract (ascending infections of the urethra, the bladder and even the kidney), as well as neonatal meningitis.
 
Different systems of classification exist for the human pathogenic Escherichia coli strains. Serotypes are based on the presence of specific proteins on the surface of Escherichia coli, whereas virotypes are based on the pattern of bacterial interaction with host cells, properties that include invasiveness, symptoms, and the production of toxins. A particularly virulent Escherichia coli strain (O157:H7) has been associated with several outbreaks of food-borne bloody diarrhea and with fatal kidney failure.

Antibiotics used to treat Escherichia coli infections include trimethoprim / sulfamethoxazole, amoxicillin, nitrofurantoin and ampicillin. Quinolone drugs have been approved in recent years for treating severe urinary tract infections. Neonatal meningitis is normally treated with third generation cephalosporins.
 
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