Caution for Poor Toilet Hygiene: Antibiotic-Resistant E. coli Superbugs Spread

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You may have heard that E. coli can spread through undercooked chicken, red meat or other food. According to new research, however, poor toilet hygiene is more likely to be the route of transmission.




E. coli introduction


E. coli, or Escherichia coli, is a type of bacteria that normally lives in our intestines, so as in some animals. Most types of E. coli are harmless and even help keep your gut environment and digestive tract healthy, but some can cause diseases.


The diseases caused by E. coli vary from diarrhea to pneumonia, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and infections after gut surgery. The most serious situation would be bloodstream infections caused by E. coli.


The most antibiotic-resistant E. coli are strains with “extended Spectrum Beta-Lactamases” (ESBLs). ESBLs refer to enzymes that can destroy many important penicillin, cephalosporin, and other antibiotics.



However, how these superbugs spread was not revealed until now.



How E. coli spread


Scientists want to know if the strains of E. coli that can cause bloodstream infections are picked up via the food chain or passed from person to person. To answer the question, they sequenced the genomes of resistant E. coli from multiple sources across the UK:


Human bloodstream infections

Human faeces

Human sewerage

Animal slurry and meat, including beef, pork and chicken

Fruit and salad


The results showed that the E. coli from human blood, faeces and sewerage samples were similar, while E. coli from human and other creatures were largely different. As the short conclusion, little crossover of ESBL-E. coli was found from animals to humans.



“Infections caused by ESBL-E. coli bacteria are difficult to treat… Mortality rates among people infected with these superbug strains are double those of people infected with strains that’re susceptible to treatment.” Said Prof David Livermore.


The research results suggest that the great majority of strains of ESBL-E. coli causing human infections spreads directly from person to person, not from eating undercooked chicken or anything else in the food chain.


"Rather—and unpalatably—the likeliest route of transmission for ESBL-E. coli is directly from human to human, with faecal particles from one person reaching the mouth of another.” Livermore said, which means the superbugs are mainly transmitted through toilets.




What you should do


You need to carry on cooking chicken well and never to alternately handle raw meat and salad. There are plenty of important food-poisoning bacteria, including other strains of E. coli that go down the food chain. But as for ESBL-E. coli, the most important thing is to wash your hands after going to the toilet.


What’s more, it’s particularly important to have good hygiene in care homes, as the most of the severe E. coli infections occur among the elderly.

3 Answers

These messages are for mutual support and information sharing only. Always consult your doctor before trying anything you read here.

I had it when I was a kid, cus of a damn steak.  It's really bad n disguesting. I had diarrhea, and vomiting. I was very sick and it took a long time to get over. My doctor should have put me on antibiotics but he DIDNT.

That's horrible that you were not treated properly. I went into septic shock a few years ago and let me tell you I never want to be stricken with that illness again. They had me hooked up to a super IV pole with 4 different lines running through my chest. It all could have been prevented had I been given enough antibiotics. The doctor only gave me a little antibiotics and it ended up coming back upon me with a vicious vengeance that almost killed me. He was an African doctor and where they come from they don't have enough of the drug therefore he was used to skimping on the antibiotics. I would have sued him but I was just to sick to deal with a lawsuit.
I always though E. coli is of no harm since everyone has it. Good to know some of the strains are more threatening.
I heard people say there're more E. coli on the surface of everyone's mobile phone. I'm going crazy if I have to wash hands after touching my iphone screen every time.
I don't believe in those false science. A group of insanes made them up to keep children away from phones like they can earn moeny from fewer people touching phones.
I use an alcohol eyeglass cleaning wipe on my cell phone everyday. I don't use other peoples cell phones since most people do take them into their bathrooms (blech). I avoid using public restrooms for obvious reasons, but if I HAVE to, I always cover the seat with toilet paper & wash hands after. Save the paper towel used to dry your hands to use to touch door knob on the way out (because MOST people DON'T wash their hands in public restrooms & they ALL touch the door on their way out.
In hospitals, use a peice of paper to push elevator buttons, don't touch bed rails, IV Poles, Bed & TV remotes, etc. I worked in hospitals & saw housekeeping NEVER disinfects thoroughly. Have your family bring Clorox wipes & go over everything in the room. EVERYTHING. As a patient I actually got MRSA from an IV nurse! It took 3 weeks in 5 heavy IV antibiotics to get it under control, & I had 3 months of wound treatment after I left the hospital because my arm had severe necrosis from it. Also...make sure ALL hospital staff washes their hands before they touch you!