NHS hospitals will receive extra funds if they reduce infection rates, the health secretary has announced in a bid to tackle the superbug crisis.
More than 5,500 people died from E.coli infections in the UK last year, many of which were from antibiotic-resistant strains.
E. coli is often referred to as the best or most-studied free-living organism. [1, 3] More than 700 serotypes of E. coli have been identified.
The “O” and “H” antigens on the bacteria and their flagella distinguish the different serotypes.
It is important to remember that most kinds of E. coli bacteria do not cause disease in humans.
Indeed, some E. coli are beneficial, while some cause infections other than gastrointestinal infections, such as urinary tract infections.
In response to the latest superbug crisis, Jeremy Hunt stated that hospitals will share a premium of up to £45 million if they make 10% reductions in E.coli infections, use antibiotics appropriately and prevent urinary tract infections.
Urinary tract infections are commonly caused by poorly-fitted catheters and antibiotic misuse can cause resistant strains of bacteria to develop.
Mr Hunt also plans to boost transparency by forcing hospitals to publish staff hand hygiene figures, based on the amount of hand gel they use.
Wards will also have to display E.coli rates and data will be published so patients can see where antibiotics are being prescribed incorrectly, Mr Hunt added.
“The best way to make sure antibiotics continue to work is by minimising their use, which means we need to start a new war on avoidable hospital infections,” the Labour leader commented.
The NHS has been successful in reducing rates of MRSA and C.difficile with infections dropping by 57% and 45% respectively.
A third of E.coli infections are now antibiotic-resistant, making them twice as deadly to those that can be treated with drugs, the Department of Health said.
Cases of E.coli exceeded 38,000 last year, a 6,000 increase since 2013, according to the department’s figures.
E. coli bacteria were discovered in the human colon in 1885 by German bacteriologist Theodor Escherich.
Dr. Escherich also showed that certain strains of the bacterium were responsible for infant diarrhea and gastroenteritis, an important public health discovery.
Although E. coli bacteria were initially called Bacterium coli, the name was later changed to Escherichia coli to honor its discoverer.