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Toxins (Basel). 2012 Nov 8;4(11):1261-87. doi: 10.3390/toxins4111261.

Shiga toxins and the pathophysiology of hemolytic uremic syndrome in humans and animals.

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Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02118, USA.


Food-borne diseases are estimated at 76 million illnesses and 5000 deaths every year in the United States with the greatest burden on young children, the elderly and immunocompromised populations. The impact of efficient food distribution systems and a truly global food supply ensures that outbreaks, previously sporadic and contained locally, are far more widespread and emerging pathogens have far more frequent infection opportunities. Enterohemorrhagic E. coli is an emerging food- and water-borne pathogen family whose Shiga-like toxins induce painful hemorrhagic colitis with potentially lethal complications of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). The clinical manifestations of Shiga toxin-induced HUS overlap with other related syndromes yet molecular mechanisms differ considerably. As discussed herein, understanding these differences and the novel properties of the toxins is imperative for clinical management decisions, design of appropriate animal models, and choices of adjunctive therapeutics. The emergence of new strains with rapidly aggressive virulence makes clinical and research initiatives in this field a high public health priority.

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