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British researchers say copper could stop new E. Coli strain

06-03-2011 21:37 BJT Special Report:EU Struggles with E. Coli Outbreak |

LONDON, June 3 (Xinhua) -- Laboratory tests conducted by British researchers indicate that copper could be effective in stopping a new strain of E. coli infection that has killed 18 people.

Professor Bill Keevil, director of the Environmental Healthcare Unit at the University of Southampton, said researchers there have not directly worked with the new E. coli strain in Germany, where the outbreak reportedly began last week, because it is so recent "but we expect that it will die quickly on copper, just like the other E. coli strains."

Meanwhile, Germany's national disease control center says almost 200 new cases of E. coli infection were reported in the first two days of June, bringing the number of cases in the country to 1,733. Eighteen people have died, all but one in Germany.

The Robert Koch Institute said Friday that 520 of those sickened are suffering from a life-threatening complication that can cause kidney failure.

Keevil said experiments have shown that on a dry copper surface, 10 million E. coli bacteria were eliminated within 10 minutes. On a wet copper surface, one could expect a total kill within around 45 minutes.

"This is due to the release of copper ions which inhibit respiration, make the cell membrane leaky and destroy the DNA (of the bacteria)," Keevil said.

The professor suggested using copper as a touch surface in food preparation areas as an addition to recommended hygiene measures.

"I believe this would help reduce the spread of infection because as soon as a pathogen lands on a surface it will begin to die," he said.

The World Health Organization recommends that to avoid food-borne illnesses, people wash their hands, keep raw meat separate from other foods, thoroughly cook their food, and wash fruits and vegetables, especially if eaten raw. Experts also recommend peeling raw fruits and vegetables if possible.

Suspicion for the cause of the outbreak has fallen on raw tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce but researchers have been unable to pinpoint the exact source.

The WHO says nine other European nations have reported a total of 80 people sick from the bacteria, most of whom had recently visited northern Germany.

Meanwhile, kidney specialist Dr. Reinhard Brunkhorst, the president of the German Nephrology Society, told reporters in Hamburg that hospitals are now seeing fewer new infections reported each day, though cautioned that "it may be less, but it's not over yet."

"There is no reason for hysteria, because it's not spreading and it's not increasing -- it's decreasing," he said.

The outbreak is considered the third-largest involving E. coli in recent world history, and it is already the deadliest. Twelve people died in a 1996 Japanese outbreak that reportedly sickened more than 9,000, and seven died in a Canadian outbreak in 2000.



Editor:Zheng Limin |Source: Xinhua

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