Friday, June 03, 2011

Genome Of A Killer

 GENOME OF A KILLER: German and Chinese scientists cracked the genetic code behind the strain of Escherichia coli that has killed 18 and sickened more than 1,600. Infected produce is suspected as the source. 

Last week, the panic in Europe started as we heard of an outbreak of of a particularly nasty variety of E. Coli that seemed to be centered in Germany. Since then there have been deaths in France and Great Britain as well. In the initial news, the culprit was deemed to be organically grown cucumbers from Spain. Of course, the news cycle amplified these reports and the entire food importation industry reacted and tone so cucumbers were destroyed.
The Spanish agricultural industry was hard hit and all Spanish produce came under scrutiny. Now, after more investigation, it seems that the offending legumes were not Spanish at all, and perhaps not even cucumbers...
No one is sure what the vector is at this point in fact, but the facts emerge that the virus seems to be German in origin and is a new previously unidentified E. Coli that is extremely resistant and very aggressive.
The economic effect on the Spanish Organic farmers and the agricultural industry by a panicked public has caused a real diplomatic rift between Spain and Germany. Germany is one of the biggest importers of  vegetables in the world...the USA is the second biggest. 
The real evidence here points to the abuse of antibiotics, in the agricultural industry and in medicine as the real culprit. E.Coli is spread through fecal material. The suspected vector are cows. Bacteria are about the fastest example of evolution, they constantly mutate and evolve their survival strategy in response to the environment.
If we provide the means for transport of the bacteria and at the same time create the conditions for the bacteria to evolve to survive the common means we use to suppress and destroy it, we will not destroy the bacteria. It will react by evolving. Bacteria needs us to survive. Plague needs a vector, it will not destroy the vector, but in a real time evolution, they both evolve, side by side, resistance and reproduction: a biological chess game. By the use and abuse of antibiotics and the artificial world of agri business, we have disrupted the real time evolution of the E. Coli bacteria and forced it to out evolve it's vector, us.

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