Killer germ seen in humans before: WHO

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The strain of E.coli bacteria that has killed 18 people in Europe has previously been seen in humans, said the World Health Organisation, even though some researchers have claimed otherwise.

"The strain which was identified in Germany is very rare, it is already known among human but it is the first time that it has been identified in an outbreak," said Fadela Chaib, spokeswoman for the UN health agency.

"This strain has been identified in human cases, but not in outbreaks," she added.

Her comments came even as a group of researchers in Hamburg found with help from Chinese researchers that the the strain of E.coli is a "new type" which is extremely aggressive and resistant to antibiotics.

Chaib refused to make direct comments on the research but indicated that WHO health experts may address that later Friday.

Enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) can cause bloody diarrhoea, as well as full-blown haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), a life-threatening kidney disease. Some 500 people have contracted HUS.

All but one of the 18 fatalities died in Germany, while the 18th, who passed away in Sweden, had recently travelled there.

© 2011 AFP

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