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Potential Test And Therapy For Kidney Failure Caused By E. Coli

Ever since the water supply in Walkerton, Ont., was contaminated by E. coli in 2000, Dr. Philip Marsden has been trying to figure out just how a toxin released by that particular strain of the bacteria causes kidney damage in children.

Now Dr. Marsden and his team based at St. Michael's Hospital and the University of Toronto, led by graduate student Tania Petruzziello-Pellegrini, together with an international team of collaborators, have made new discoveries about the basic workings of endothelial cells that could lead to a diagnostic test for the serious kidney disease known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and a possible treatment.

His work took a sudden twist in May 2011, when an E. coli outbreak swept northern Germany and researchers discovered that a different strain of the bacteria was producing the identical toxin. This time the HUS mainly affected adults, especially women, and was associated with severe kidney failure and strokes.

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