Via: USA Today:
The E. coli bacteria responsible for a deadly outbreak that has left 18 dead and sickened hundreds in Europe is a new strain that has never been seen before, the World Health Organization said Thursday.
Preliminary genetic sequencing suggests the strain is a mutant form of two different E. coli bacteria, with aggressive genes that could explain why the Europe-wide outbreak appears to be so massive and dangerous, the agency said.
Hilde Kruse, a food safety expert at the WHO, told the Associated Press that “this is a unique strain that has never been isolated from patients before.”
European health officials tracking the outbreak, one of the worst on record, might never know where it came from. It’s a sad fact of life in food poisoning cases: There often is no smoking gun.
The germ has sickened more than 1,500 people, mostly in Germany. Most patients who have been interviewed said they ate lettuce, tomatoes or cucumbers, but officials testing produce across the continent have yet to find any vegetables with the particular strain involved.