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Bacteria in digestive tracts compete against invading bacteria

From tiny villages in developing nations to suburban kitchens in the United States, dangerous strains of E. coli bacteria sicken millions of people each year - and kill untold numbers of children.

Now, new research from the University of Michigan Health System gives scientists a better understanding of what is going on in the diarrhea-wracked guts of its victims, and what might be done to prevent or treat it.

Specifically, they show that the bacteria that usually live in our digestive tracts compete against invading bacteria such as E. coli to help our bodies fend them off.

They also show that the invaders depend on certain genes to gain a temporary upper hand in that battle -- just long enough to reproduce and cause the symptoms that expel their offspring from the body so they can find a new host.

The findings, published in journal Science on its Science Express website, point to potential ways to prevent or treat infections by enterohemorrhagic or enteropathogenic E. coli. Those are the types that can lurk in undercooked ground beef, unpasteurized milk, untreated drinking water, and contaminated produce - and that can cause diarrhea and other symptoms that sicken adults and can kill vulnerable children.
 
 

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