E. coli’s intimate relationships with your colon

2nd March 2015

Pathogenic E. coli, of the sort responsible for the outbreak in Germany in 2011, form an intimate relationship with the lining of our colon. New research led by Dr Stephanie Schüller is providing new insights into this relationship, which will help in the development of therapies and vaccines.

Enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) or E. coli O157 normally lives in the gut of cattle, but can infect humans through eating undercooked beef products, contaminated raw fruit or vegetables, or by direct contact with animals. Infections can be serious, and even fatal, and there are no specific treatments.

To help address this, PhD student Steven Lewis, supervised by Dr Schüller at IFR and the University of East Anglia, has been studying exactly how these bacteria colonise our gut, by understanding how they attach to the cells that line the colon.

Working with colleagues at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, they showed for the first time that EHEC can colonise human colonic biopsy epithelium, by forming attaching and effacing lesions.


SEM image showing EHEC binding to human colonic biopsy epithelium

SEM image showing EHEC binding to human colonic biopsy epithelium. Image by Steven Lewis, PhD Student in Stephanie Schuller’s Group.


Lewis S.B., Cook V., Tighe R., Schüller S. Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli colonization of human colonic epithelium in vitro and ex vivo. Infection and Immunity doi: 10.1128/IAI.02928-14


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