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E. coli Get's a Bad Rap

Updated on April 13, 2013

What is E. coli?

Crystal's view:

BACTERIA! I always thought of them as squirmy, ugly bug looking things that were gross and harmful to humans. Now that I know better I realize how helpful they are.

Read on to learn something new!

E. coli for example (scientifically known as Escherichia coli) is a type of bacteria that is in an absolute abundance on Earth. These little guys can be found in your gut, right now (while you read this) and can replicate at a very fast rate, although the human body regulates this.

They are normally rod shaped and Enteric. They are facultative aerobes meaning that they can live where oxygen is but can also switch from respiration to fermentation (like what happens with bacteria during the production of beer) when no oxygen is present.

The Large Intestines

This photo is of the large intestines, the lower intestines lie in the center of the large intestines and is where most of the E. coli is located.
This photo is of the large intestines, the lower intestines lie in the center of the large intestines and is where most of the E. coli is located. | Source

From A Stomach Standpoint...

E. coli is most commonly herd about on news media during recalls of food and hearing about all the cause of food poisoning. This is because there are both harmful strains of the bacteria and un-harmful strains.

The un-harmful E. coli that lives in your stomach (more specifically in your intestine) is necessary in order to keep pathogenic bacteria out (the harmful bacteria that can cause diseases). It's like a competition of who is going to remain. We should be thankful E. coli tends to win versus other intestinal bacteria such as [1] :

  • Salmonella
  • Shigella
  • Vibrio cholerae

These intestinal bacterial pathogens are widely known to cause some nasty symtoms like fever, diarrhea and stomach cramps[3],and are usually obtained by the ingestion of food, touching your mouth without washing your hands or drinking contaminated water. In sever cases they can lead to death without treatment due to dehydration and shock.

Certain vitamins such as Vitamin K are synthesized (made) by the bacteria. Vitamin K is essential for the liver and is a key player in the production of blood clotting [2]. Normal blood clotting occurs during a cut on your hand or some sort of abrasion or laceration on the skin in order to stop the blood. Normal clotting is necessary for the body to heal itself.

Without E. coli the body would need another way to make Vitamin K. Good thing we have E. coli.

This is an Insulin injection.
This is an Insulin injection. | Source

From a Biomedical Standpoint

E. coli is extremely easy to grow, due to it's incredible reproduction rate. Because of this, in a lab setting this bacteria is an ideal specimen.

You may have herd of Insulin. You know, the stuff that regulates Diabetes. Well Insulin was hard to reproduce until the use of E. coli. Before E. coliwas used, insulin was obtained from cadavers which caused many other defects in the patients.

Currently with this bacteria, Insulin can be mass produce in a facility that uses batch reactors. Batch reactors have to be regulated for pressure, temperature and nutrients to the bacteria, because they are alive! In order for a scientist to extract the insulin that bacteria has to remain alive.

The way that insulin is made through E. coli is by inserting DNA containing the proteins necessary to produce insulin normally found in the human body.

If I have explained well enough, you can just imagine the different ways that E. coli can be useful for biomedical reasons (any DNA sequence can be placed into the bacteria and grown easily for mass production)!

Therefore, I think Escherichia coli gets a bad rap, because without this bacteria, we wouldn't be here!


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