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New E.coli Strain With Rare DNA Fingerprint Sickens Five People

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A new strain of Escherichia coli (E.coli) has sickened five people in three different locations in the United States. The new bacterial strain is said to have a rare DNA fingerprint of the same pathogen linked to the latest Chipotle Mexican Grill E.coli outbreak.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now investigating the details of the latest outbreak. Experts have so far found that the bacterial strain being pinned down contains Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O26 (STEC O26), the culprit in Chipotle's mishaps.

Health officials have not yet confirmed whether the new infections are directly connected to the larger outbreak. Because of this, they have not included the cases in the total count of the same outbreak.

"These recent cases occurred several weeks after the last cases in the larger outbreak and in a different geographic location," said Dr. Ian Williams, chief of CDC's Outbreak Response & Prevention Branch. He added that the pathogens do not come from a common source, but investigations are still in the works.

In an update posted by CDC, the latest outbreak has caused illness to one person in Arkansas, one from North Dakota and three from Oklahoma. The illnesses began from Nov. 18, 2015 to Nov. 26, 2015. All of the patients reported that they ate at a Chipotle Mexican Grill before they became sick.

Health inspectors are utilizing a new diagnostic modality called whole genome sequencing. Through his technique, experts will be able to obtain additional information about the DNA fingerprint of the STEC O26 plaguing the victims. Out of the samples obtained from patients across eight states, a total of 29 STEC O26 were found to be genetically related to one another.

Statistics showed that as of Dec. 18, 2015, a total of 53 people have been infected by STEC O26 strain in nine states. The numbers of hospitalized patients were 20, but there were no reports of hemolytic uremic syndrome and mortalities. Majority of the cases were documented in Oregon and Washington since October 2015.

As per investigations, the epidemiologic proof has suggested that the source of the infection is likely a common meal or food ingredient served at restaurant branches across states. However, experts have not yet been able to pinpoint the exact source of the infection up until now.

Chipotle Mexican Grill has been helping health authorities to understand how their food items that were distributed in branches have gotten people ill. This collaboration is still ongoing.

CDC and state health officials are persistently performing surveillance interventions to identify other people affected by the outbreak. They also advise Chipotle consumers, who may have been affected by the infection, to seek medical help immediately.

"CDC will advise the public if specific steps are identified that consumers can take to protect themselves," the agency wrote on its website.

Photo: Anthony D'Onofrio | Flickr

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