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Europe’s toll in bacterial mystery hits 16

Associated Press / June 1, 2011

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BERLIN — A massive and unprecedented outbreak of bacterial infections linked to contaminated vegetables claimed two more lives in Europe yesterday, driving the death toll to 16. The number of sick rose to more than 1,150 people in at least eight nations.

Nearly 400 people in Germany were battling a severe and potentially fatal version of an infection that attacks the kidneys and kills up to 5 percent of patients.

A US analyst said doctors had never seen so many cases of the condition, hemolytic uremic syndrome, tied to a foodborne outbreak.

Investigators across Europe were frantically trying to determine how many vegetables were contaminated with enterohaemorrhagic E. coli or EHEC — an unusual, toxic strain of the common E. coli bacterium — and where in the long journey from farm to grocery store the contamination occurred.

The highly politicized mystery deepened with new evidence that German vegetables may have been contaminated by at least two strains of EHEC.

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