Typical symptoms of the problem are abdominal cramps and watery or bloody diarrhoea which can lead to hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), which can shut down the kidneys. It is most common in children and the elderly.
While the recent infections were caused by the E. coli 0104:H4, whereas most of the in vitro work has been performed in E. coli 0157:H7. But the encouraging anti-adhesion results there gave merit to exploring probiotic effects for E. coli O104:H4.
The in vitro studies have shown that probiotics may be effective in controlling infections caused by E. coli 0157:H7 on all three levels. Those levels are: a) microbial interaction; b) epithelium interaction and c) immune system interaction.
Selected Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus strains had shown the most potential. For example, one strain of L. acidophilus had been shown to positively affect the up regulation of intestinal tract mucins and the subsequent inhibition of attachment of E. coli 0157:H7.
HUS is thought to be caused by one or both Shiga toxins produced by enterohemorrhagic E. coli that are transported through the bloodstream by neutrophils binding to target cell surface receptors that result in cell apoptosis.