Haemolytic uraemic syndrome associated with interfamilial spread of E. coli O26:H11

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In September 2000, haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) was diagnosed in a 10-month-old child with a prodromal history of vomiting and diarrhoea (non-bloody). Investigation revealed that a self-limiting gastrointestinal illness (mean duration 48 h) had occurred among immediate and extended family in the 2 weeks prior to the child's admission. The epidemiology of the illness suggested person-to-person spread. Five children (close family contacts) had E. coli O26 verocytotoxin (VT1 and VT2) isolated from stools. Stool culture and serology from the index case were negative for shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) organisms. Control measures in accordance with the Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS), verocytotoxogenic organisms (VTEC) guidelines were applied to prevent further spread among the extended family and contacts. Despite detailed food and environmental exposure histories, the source of the illness was not identified. This incident highlights the importance of investigation of cases of post-diarrhoeal HUS, for potential shiga toxin E. coli aetiology.

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