Research for infection protection

Preventing infections by EHEC bacteria

Escherichia coli (E. coli)

Since mid-May, an increasing number of people have contracted bloody diarrhoea caused by the Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacterium. The majority of diarrhoea cases have been recorded in Northern Germany; individual cases have also occurred in Southern and East Germany. Very unusual is the high number of people affected in such a short period of time – particularly in combination with such a severity of infection – and the age: typically affecting children, the current EHEC outbreak mostly causes diarrhoea in adult women.

Severe courses
EHEC mostly triggers bloody, watery diarrhoea accompanied by sickness, vomiting, abdominal pain, and rarely by fever. However, for around 80 persons infected by EHEC the Robert Koch-Institute reports that they are suffering from the serious haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS): the toxins produced by the bacteria destroy the red blood cells and cause tissue bleeding, primarily affecting the kidneys; the platelet count in the body drops and the HUS may cause fatal kidney failure. The RKI already reported one death evidently caused by EHEC.

Protection against infections
The source of the current EHEC outbreak has yet not been identified. Ruminants such as cattle, sheep and goats are considered the main reservoir. EHEC is mostly transmitted via contaminated food or water and direct human-to-human contact respectively.

Hence, infection protection measures need to break the faecal-oral route of transmission:

Inpatient treatment of EHEC patients or of patients suspected of being infected with EHEC:

  • Contact isolation
  • Basic hygiene   

    • Hand disinfection 
    • Surface disinfection
    • Protective clothing (single-use gowns and single-use examination gloves)

The effective hand disinfection for the duration of the disease is central to the protection against EHEC infections. In addition, surfaces with frequent hand contact (e.g. medical devices, surfaces, bathrooms, door knobs) and all other surfaces that have come or may have come into contact with the patient’s infectious excrement are to be disinfected regularly.

Bactericidal disinfectants
The disinfectants used for prophylactic and final disinfections in case of EHEC outbreaks need to have a proven efficacy against bacteria, tested in accordance with European Norms.
Disinfectants with proven bactericidal activity are also effective against Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (E. coli). To verify this conclusion by analogy BODE has systematically tested selected bactericidal hand and surface disinfectants for their activity against EHEC. The test results could confirm the argument by analogy.

Click to go to the HARTMANN Hand Disinfectants and Surface Disinfectants.

For the latest information on the current EHEC outbreak, please visit the website of the Robert Koch-Institute.