Updated Monday at 11:45 a.m.: It is not the sprouts either, German officials say.
First, it was the Spanish cucumbers, then the German sprouts. Turns out, it’s neither. And the search for the mysterious origin of deadly bacteria E. coli continues.
Twenty-three of 40 samples from the Gaertnerhof organic farm in northern Germany tested negative, the Associated Press reports. Researchers are still awaiting the results of the remaining 17 sprout samples.
The organic farm became suspect when different kinds of its sprouts could be traced to infected persons in five German states. The farm was shut down on Sunday and all its produce was confiscated for examination. One of the farm’s employees was also infected.
“The search for the outbreak’s cause is very difficult as several weeks have passed since its suspected start,” an official statement said, leaving everyone wondering about what is or is not safe to eat now.
Original post Sunday at 2:55 p.m.: An agriculture minister in Germany says that the cause of an outbreak of a deadly and robust new E. coli bacterium is now believed to be locally grown bean sprouts.
Minister Gert Lindemann told Associated Press reporters Sunday more tests would be available Monday, but that sprouts from a horticultural farm between Hamburg and Hannover were traced to five of the sick.
Reuters reports that in a press conference broadcast over television, Minister Lindemann said “there was a very clear trail (to this company) as the source of the infection.”
The farm where the sprouts were traced to has been shut down, according to German officials, who put out a warning Sunday against eating sprouts, in addition to previous warnings against tomatoes and cucumbers.
So far 22 people have died and over 2,000 have been sickened by the outbreak, which has already been called the worst in modern history. Ten other European countries and the U.S. have reported 90 victims as well.
The super strain of E. coli reportedly sticks to intestinal walls and releases toxins, causing bloody diarrhea and severe kidney problems. In Northern Germany, hospitals have been overwhelmed with patients, and the Associated Press has reported far from sanitary conditions. On Sunday German officials encouraged hospitals in the South to take some of the overflow.
American health officials assured CBS News Saturday that the four people in the U.S. who were sickened did not represent an immediate danger of triggering an outbreak in the U.S.
"We don't think it spreads from one person to another rapidly," said Dr. Robert Tauxe, a CDC foodborne disease expert.
In 2008, a Canadian research team writing in the medical journal Lancet Infectious Diseases said that an increasing number of E. coli strains resistant to antibiotics were being discovered, warning that they would be more contagious and extremely difficult to treat.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to E. coli as a virus.
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