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Escherichia Coli as One of the Most Widespread Food-Borne Pathogen

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The reason I chose Escherichia coli is because it can be a harmful bacteria and one of many bacteria that we cannot live without. Most strains of E. coli are harmless to us human, but there are some that will make us sick. E. coli over the years have been a reason for contamination to our food source throughout the country and even our favorite restaurants. There has been outbreaks of E. coli contamination in our lettuce, ground beef, chicken, and what use to be my favorite fast food place, Chipotle Mexican Grill in the United States. I personally was never affected by E. coli, but my niece that ate Chipotle daily ended up getting sick and had to be taken to the hospital. She had all the symptoms and was treated. My niece’s stomach was sensitive, even months after being sick with the contamination. This bacteria lives in our intestine, but an unknown strain of E. coli that enters our body can be extremely harmful. The causes of these E. coli outbreaks have been from the people that handle our crops and serve us our food because they don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom.

Theodor Escherich was the first to describe and observe Escherichia coli in 1885 and named it Bacterium coli commune and later on it was renamed to Escherichia coli. His observation of E. coli was isolated from feces. E. coli is a gram-negative rod-shaped bacteria, from the Gammaproteobacteria the largest subgroup of proteobacteria and member of the order Enterobacteriales. Enterobacteriales are an important bacterial group commonly called enterics, which means they live in the intestinal tract of humans and animals. This means E. coli is a normal and harmless bacteria that lives in the large intestine of vertebrates, including humans. The presence of this E. coli strains is beneficial to us because it helps produce certain vitamins that are essential to us. The large intestine contains bacteria, such as E. coli, which synthesize vitamin K and this vitamin is absorbed into our bloodstream and transported to be used by our body cells. Then, our large intestine provides these bacteria’s that live in our intestine nutrients to allow them to survive. Also, they prevent the growth of harmful organisms in our intestine. E. coli is just one of the many normal microbiota in our intestinal tract, there are many more harmless enterobacteriales that are living in our intestines and are essential to us. Without these bacteria in our intestinal tract, we wouldn’t be able to digest certain foods that are difficult for our body to breakdown on its own. There are harmless strains of E. coli that don’t affect us, but certain strains can be pathogenic and be extremely harmful if we encounter them (Tortora, Funke, et al., 2016).

E. coli is known to be easily grown and cultivated, microbiologist often refer to it as a laboratory pet. E. coli is called an opportunistic pathogens, meaning they won’t causes diseases in their normal habitat of a healthy person, but can causes diseases in different environments where they don’t belong. E. coli can remain harmless is it stays in our intestine, but if it moves from our intestine into other parts of our body it can cause harm to us. E. coli can enter our urinary bladder, lungs, spinal cord, or open wounds, that will lead to urinary tract infections, pulmonary infections, meningitis, or abscesses (Tortora, Funke, et al., 2016).

There is a dangerous strain of E. coli called O157:H7 that came about in the 1970s in the United States (McIntosh, 2011). This strain are from the enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) that has caused several outbreaks of serious disease in the United States. This bacteria is a Shiga-like toxin and these toxins are damaging to the intestinal lining. When the toxins are released in process of cell lysis and when antibiotics are giving to an infected person it is attack the cell, which is causing more toxins to be released into the body. There has been found that cattle’s are not affect by the pathogen, but they are carriers of this pathogen. A small percentage of cattle’s carry Shiga-toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), which is contaminating the dead body at slaughter. The ground beef are required to be tested for the presence of the strain of E. coli, before being exported around the United States. Ground beef isn’t the only thing that gets contaminated, leafy vegetables (Tortora, Funke, et al., 2016). This contamination can be caused by infected birds, flying frequently over the crop field or floods with contaminated water. E. coli can also be spread by farmworkers who don’t wash their hands or farm equipment that has manure on it. Then, the greens are picked out, they are moved and being exposed to other workers and equipment to be package. The workers rinse the lettuce with a chlorine wash to kill pathogens, but studies have shown that these sprays that are being used aren’t very effective. Same goes for when we wash our fruits or vegetables at home, it isn’t very effective when a pathogen is present because they attach to the surface of our goods and can enter the inside of our goods after we cut them open. It is important for the people that grow our food, try to do the most they can to minimize contamination (Dewey, 2018). Shiga toxins causes diarrhea to humans, it causes inflammation in the colon, which can causes bleeding as well.

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Being infected with strain O157:H7 is very dangerous because they have the ability to survive outside of its natural enteric environment. E. coli is transmitted through the fecal-oral route, from individual, food or liquid that has been contaminated with E. coli, causing diarrhea. Humans that are at higher risk for this disease are young children, the elderly, and immunocompromised individuals, than healthy adults. In many cases this stain causes mild diarrhea, which usually goes away by itself within a week. There is an acute phase called hemorrhagic colitis, which causes watery stool and it becomes infused with blood, abdominal pain and vomiting. If left untreated the bacteria can spread from the digestive system to colonize in other organs of the body, this can lead to death. Many children infected with O157:H7 develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which damages the kidneys and causes loss of red blood cells. Having these symptoms calls for a trip to the hospital and the presence of E. coli is tested by isolation of the O157 serotype of the patient stool sample. The sample of stool can be tested directly for verotoxin for fast diagnosis than a culture test. If the test confirms the strain present, usually is from food contamination (McIntosh, 2011). HUS causes decrease in urination, feeling tired, and loss of color in flesh and inside the lower eyelids. HUS is serious and it causes kidney failure and infected people can suffer permanent damage to their kidneys and die. There are many things we can do to prevent STEC infection by practicing proper hygiene, such as washing your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom, before and after preparing or eating food, contact with animals or their environment, and use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Washing your fruits and vegetable well under running water, always. We should cook meats thoroughly, don’t eat undercooked meat and avoid causing cross contamination when cutting raw meat. Oddly enough, don’t swallow water when swimming in lakes, ponds, and etc. (CDC, 2018).

Another, disease that can occur from this bacteria is uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC) that causes urinary tract infection, which are the most common type of infection that occurs in women and are usually due to E. coli. E. coli has been closely associated with the cause of cystitis, which is the inflammation of the bladder. The inflammation is caused by a bacterial infection (UTI). They found that in a women with cystitis, in her urine strain it was the same fecal strain (Moreno, Andreu, et al., 2008). Since in women their urethra is closer than the male urethra to the anal opening, it can cause contamination of intestinal bacteria, such as E. coli. In either gender, most UTI’s are caused by E. coli. This can be confirmed by cultivation on differential media such as MacConkey’s agar. Cystitis can causes difficulty and pain when urinating and pyuria. Cystitis can be treated with trimethoprim sulfamethoxazole or with antibiotics, such as ampicillin or fluoroquinolone it resistance occurs. If left untreated, cystitis can progress to pyelonephritis, which is inflammation of one or both kidneys. The symptoms are fever and back pain. This usually occurs from women that had a complication of UTI’s (Tortora, Funke, et al., 2016). Cystitis can be prevented by wiping from front to back after a bowel movement, this prevents bacteria in the anal region from spreading the vagina and urethra. Also, by drinking plenty of liquids and wash the skin around the vagina and anus daily.

In November 2015, Chipotle Mexican Grill had a serious of two E. coli O26 infectious outbreak in 11 states in United States that sent a total of 21 people to the hospital that were infected with the outbreak strain of STEC O26, but 55 people were found infected with this disease. A whole genome sequencing was performed on the STEC O26 from 36 ill people from the first outbreak. All the samples collected were highly related to one another. All of these people where reported to be eating from Chipotle Mexican Grill. Over 43, Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants in Washington and Oregon were closed in 2015 because of the outbreak. All the food and ingredients were tested in all types of microbial test to confirm the present of E. coli, but oddly enough they didn’t find any signs of E. coli and weren’t able to rule out the cause of this outbreak. It was also reported that the none of the employees were sick from this incidents. Even though there was no evidence of E. coli in the food, they replaced all the ingredients of the closed restaurants and implemented additional safety procedures in all of its 2,000 restaurants to ensure food safety standards are in place. Also, all restaurants required a deep cleaning and sanitization to ensure that the microbe is gone, if ever there. Since no evidence of the source of outbreak in the many ingredients was of interest, they moved towards the suppliers and again no evidence was found. Unfortunately, no food item has been ruled out of taken off the menu (FDA, 2016). In December of 2015, a second outbreak occurred of a different and rare strain of STEC O26 was found. Five people were found infected with this strain was reported in 3 different states: Kansas, North Dakota, and Oklahoma. Another whole genome sequencing of the infected people and all showed infection from STEC O26 that were related to each other. No evidence of the source of the outbreak was found, but believe it came from a common meal item or ingredient served at Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants (CDC, 2016).

Escherichia coli is the most common food-borne pathogen because of it is easily grown and genetic manipulation. Since most of the outbreaks we have in the United States come from exported good, our country should consider having our crops grow here in the United states. We can have better view and control of our crops and workers to eliminate these outbreaks of E. coli and develop a better system to decontaminate our crops with an affective spray to kill all potential pathogens before getting in the hands of consumers. We have had multiple outbreaks from lettuce that have come from out of the United States in the past five years and the only way we know is when someone gets servilely ill and ends up in the hospital. Some people have even been reported death from these outbreaks. Then, the FDA comes in to play to get rid of these products and alerts us the consumers to beware these certain items that are contaminated. We need to develop a better system to test our food before being consumed and before a consumer gets very ill.

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Escherichia Coli as One of the Most Widespread Food-Borne Pathogen. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 21, 2023, from
“Escherichia Coli as One of the Most Widespread Food-Borne Pathogen.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022,
Escherichia Coli as One of the Most Widespread Food-Borne Pathogen. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 Mar. 2023].
Escherichia Coli as One of the Most Widespread Food-Borne Pathogen [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 01 [cited 2023 Mar 21]. Available from:
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