E.coli – friend and foe!

Do you long for a relationship with nature? You’ve got one whether you like it or not. Are you into wildlife or is wildlife into you? Both. In fact you’re full of it!

Your gut is home to many trillions of bacteria, and one species that gets an unfair press is Escherichia coli (or E.coli for short). Every now and again there’s terrible news about E.coli and how it killed people by being present in unsafely prepared food, or caused diarrhoea, or it’s becoming a superbug. > BBC news Small Video Image Farms infected with E-coli. < Recent concern about the over-use of antibiotics in farming highlights a very real problem.

But the truth is, our E.coli population is a vital part of an internal ecosystem keeping us alive. E.coli bacteria produce vitamin k, essential for the biochemistry of blood clotting.

Don’t get freaked out by the idea that you are full of micro-organisms. It’s totally natural. To give you some perspective on their importance: the human body contains a vast amount of living cells – a number roughly 1×1014 (that’s a 1 followed by 14 zeros), but only about 10% of those cells actually belong to us.

Background stuff

E coli was first discovered in the human colon by Theodor Escherich, a German scientist, in 1885. He also showed that some strains of E coli are able to cause diarrhoea and gastroenteritis. Microbiologists would describe E coli as a gram-negative, rod-shaped, and facultatively anaerobic bacterium. It’s in the family Enterobacteriaceae.

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