Scientists are great at growing E. coli in the lab. They know exactly under which conditions various strains thrive. Unfortunately, there is only so much that can be learned from the bacteria’s behavior in an ideal, isolated and ultimately unrealistic environment. That is why a group of researchers at the University of California, Riverside, decided to study how Escherichia coli O157:H7—a pathogen that can cause hemorrhagic diarrhea and kidney failure—is transmitted to groundwater after a human eats contaminated food.
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