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Heart risk linked to E coli

22nd November 2010

People who contract the most dangerous form of E coli food poisoning could have a heightened risk of hypertension and heart problems years later, a Canadian study has found.

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Heart attack risk doubled among a study of 2,000 Canadian patients who had fallen ill with E coli 0157.

The findings have led the researchers to recommend annual health checks, even for patients who make a full recovery from the strain of E coli.

E coli 0157 is regarded as one of the most dangerous forms of food poisoning, but microbiologists say that it can be prevented by observing basic food hygiene.

Carried in animal faeces, the bacteria cause severe gastroenteritis even in small numbers.

Carried out the Victoria Hospital in London, Ontario and published in the British Medical Journal, the study carried out a follow-up into a group of 2,000 patients who became sick after the Walkern municipal water supply became contaminated with the bacteria.

The May 2000 outbreak killed seven people, while thousands of others were affected, some with severe diarrhoea.

The study showed that patients affected by gastroenteritis during the outbreak had triple the rate of kidney problems, compared with those who were not very ill.

This group was also at a slightly higher risk for raised blood pressure, and more than twice as likely to have a heart attack during the follow-up period.

The study speculated that this could be caused by a powerful toxin released by the E coli 0157 bacteria in the body, which triggered an inflammatory reaction.

This could affect the linings of the patients' blood vessels, and make heart problems and hypertension more likely.

The report concluded that those who had been seriously affected by the strain should be offered annual blood pressure checks.

The UK sees approximately 800 to 1,200 cases of E coli 0157 annually.

Food standards safety officer Bob Martin said cooking food thoroughly and keeping the domestic space clean would go a long way to preventing the infection in the first place.

He said that preventing cross-contamination between raw meat and cooked food, and keeping food properly refrigerated were also important prevention measures.

Previous studies have shown a link between this strain of E coli and kidney problems, but this is the first study to investigate other possible long-term complications.


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