- To standardise the methodologies for surveillance and laboratory investigations of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) infections.
- To perform a European multicenter case-control study with a standardised questionnaire which will form the basis for data collection.
- To investigate the influence of different socio-economic structures and diet habits.
- To determine optimal typification methods for strains ,so as to be able to build up an early warning system to prevent further spread of virulent clones by food and livestock sources and to very rapidly make available all information relevant to public health governments.
Infections with enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) are rapidly becoming a serious public health problem in Europe. EHEC have a novel mechanism of pathogenesis that involves the expression of Shiga-like toxins (verocytotoxins) and EHEC-hemolysin, which is a new member of the RTX toxin family. In addition, EHEC strains harbor a large-size virulence plasmid. The clinical manifestations include mild to moderate diarrhea, hemorrhagic colitis, hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and occasionally features resembling thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura. Foods of bovine origin such as ground beef and unpasteurized milk are important sources of human infection characterising EHEC as zoonotic pathogens. Furthermore, the low infectious dose of EHEC make these organism highly transmissible from person-to-person, a matter of great public health concern. The extensive movement of people, livestock and foodstuff between different European countries is making EHEC infections a cross border problem and stresses the need of establishing a network of laboratories and centers in Europe. Seven teams from six European countries form a European study group on EHEC infections. The results of this study will increase the knowledge on the epidemiology and pathogenesis of EHEC infections allowing better tracing the sources of EHEC.