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German E.coli is unique strain

A never before seen unique strain of E.coli is believed to be at the centre of a German outbreak.

The virulent strain has affected seven people in the UK, four German nationals and three Britons.

The strain may be a mutant form of two different E.coli bacteria according to early investigations.

World Health Organisation (WHO) food safety expert, Hilde Kruse, told the Associated Press that it is a "unique strain" that has not been "isolated from patients before".

She added that the new strain has "various characteristics that make it more virulent and toxin-producing".

It is not uncommon for bacteria to continually evolve and swap genes but the new strain appears to be more virulent than other strains of E.coli.

Severe E.coli cases are usually seen in children and older people, but all age groups are currently affected.

According to the Health Protection Agency, all the UK cases caught the infection in Germany.

Three of them have developed the potentially deadly complication of haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS).

Cases of HUS and enterohemorrhagic E.coli continue to rise in Germany, and more than 10 countries worldwide have now reported cases.

Copyright Press Association 2011