Vaccine hopes dashed E.coli `like smallpox'

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The Independent Online
Eradicating the food poisoning bug E.coli 0157 may take hundreds of years, Britain's leading expert in the field said yesterday.

Professor Hugh Pennington, who was called in by the Government to investigate the world's biggest outbreak of the bacteria, in central Scotland last year, said he did not yet have any answers to the problem.

Rooting out E.coli 0157 compared with the task of eradicating smallpox, he told delegates at the British Veterinary Association annual meeting in Edinburgh. But, unlike smallpox, E.coli 0157 was passed on easily, he said.

Talk of developing a vaccine to inoculate people against E.coli 0157 was "hopeless" and, at present, simply an academic exercise, said Professor Pennington, of Aberdeen University's department of microbiology. "It took 200 years to eradicate smallpox," he pointed out.

The outbreak of E.coli 0157 in central Scotland claimed 20 lives and affected more than 450 other people. A fatal accident inquiry into the outbreak is pending.