Killer germ very antibiotic resistant: German researchers

A German hospital treating patients felled by a mysterious killer bacteria said Thursday that it appears to be particularly resistant to antibiotics after its researchers sequenced the strain's genome.

The University Clinic Hamburg-Eppendorf said its microbiologists had worked with Chinese researchers to crack the genetic code of the lethal strain of E. coli, as the death toll from the outbreak rose to 18 in Europe.

"A preliminary analysis pointed to possible reasons for this strain of E. coli's extreme aggressiveness and resistance to antibiotics," it said in a statement from Hamburg, the epicentre of the outbreak.

"The data culled will make it possible in future to develop better molecular tools for a precise diagnosis of the strain behind the outbreak.

"In addition, it can now be researched how this new type of E. coli strain developed, why the strain can spread at great speed and why the illness it unleashes is so serious."

It was not immediately clear whether the clinic was referring to a new strain of the bacteria or the first outbreak of illness from the strain. The facility could no longer be reached for comment.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said earlier that the strain of a lethal bacteria was "very rare" and had never been seen in an outbreak form before.

"It has been seen in sporadic cases and is very rare," Gregory Hartl, the WHO spokesman, said.

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