New strain of deadly bug behind outbreaks
HEALTH officials have confirmed that a total of 13 adults and children have so far been struck by the E.coli outbreak in Fife. A further 10 people with symptoms and a link to the Careshare nursery in Dunfermline are still being investigated as possible cases. The nursery remains closed.
Yesterday, health protection experts said a new strain of the deadly E.coli 0157 bacteria was behind the outbreaks. The bug has only ever been recorded in three previous cases in the UK and the latest cases have raised fears that the bacteria has now mutated into a more virulent form.
There have been a further eight cases of the bacteria in Scotland and England so far this year.
Health officials are interviewing all those affected in a bid to find out how the E.coli was contracted.
Dr John Cowden, a consultant microbiologist for Health Protection Scotland, said detailed analysis showed the bacterium had never been seen before in such a pathogenic form. He added that it appeared the new strain was becoming more widespread, and said: "They [the victims] do not appear to have been to the same geographical location. It seems unlikely they contracted it from the same environment."
Two of the children confirmed with E.coli in Dunfermline also attended other nurseries in the town, one being Lynburn Primary nursery, the other Maclean nursery.
Of the five children hospitalised with kidney failure after the outbreak in Dunfermline, three have been discharged from hospital.
Dr Mike Roworth, consultant in public health medicine at NHS Fife, said: "Two children are still being treated at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow for kidney problems. They continue to show signs of improvement."
A second nursery, Dreams Daycare nursery in Insch, Aberdeenshire, was also closed earlier this month when two children there contracted E.coli 0157.
Both were discharged from hospital last week and the nursery has reopened. The two outbreaks are not thought to be linked and it is not clear if the new strain was behind the Aberdeenshire outbreak.
But health officials know four other people have been infected with this new bacteria in Scotland during April this year and it was also responsible for four more cases in Yorkshire, where a young child died.
The new E.coli strain behaves like an existing, harmless form of the bug known as sorbitol-fermenting E.coli 0157, making it harder to detect.
This week, Scotland's Chief Medical Officer Dr Harry Burns issued a letter to all GPs reminding them to take specimens from patients suffering from symptoms of E.coli poisoning in a bid to help officials track the bug.
Professor Hugh Pennington, president of the Society for General Microbiology, said the new strain might explain why so many of the children in the Dunfermline outbreak had kidney problems.
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