U.S. Department of Defense


Date of this Version



PNAS (2000), 97(7), p. 2959-2961.


Before 1982, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had identified only one Escherichia coli isolate of the O157:H7 serotype; it had been isolated from a patient with bloody diarrhea. Then, in 1982, two outbreaks of severe bloody diarrhea occurred among people who had eaten hamburgers at a fast food chain. The CDC isolated E. coli O157:H7 from people who had become ill as well as from a hamburger patty. In 1983, Karmali et al. discovered an association between infection with E. coli that produce Shiga toxin (then called Vero toxin), including O157:H7 strains, and another severe and sometimes fatal condition, the hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Last year, the CDC estimated that strains of E. coli O157:H7 cause approximately 73,000 illnesses and 60 deaths per year in the United States, and non- O157:H7 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) add an additional 37,000 estimated cases.