The research project has revealed a remarkable organism, which constantly shuffles its genes to make itself elusive and adaptable, researchers said.
Bacteriophage viruses may have played a key role in the development of the organism, which appears to be geared towards obtaining new genes, according to the research team who reported their discovery in Nature.
Lead researcher Dr Frederick Blattner, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA, claimed that each strain of E.coli contains a subset of the full range of genes available, dubbed the "pathosphere" by the team.
The bacteria use a process of conjugation to spread new genes rapidly through populations.
|New E.coli genes that have the ability to make toxins have been found|
The research has shown a number of new genes that may have the ability to make toxins - in addition to the two known Shiga toxins. The researchers believe viruses probably inserted the additional genes.
Geneticist Dr Guy Plunkett warned that some antibiotics might stimulate virally infected bacteria to produce more viruses and toxins.
He said, "The antibiotics kill the E.coli, but in their death throes the bacteria release more of these toxins.
"So in the course of treating the disease, you could actually exacerbate the problem."
Potential applications of the new discovery also include the development of new tests and the possibility of a vaccine for animals.
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said, "Better ways to diagnose, treat and prevent E.coli O157:H7 infections are badly needed.
"This new information will provide important leads to scientists working to reduce the human and economic burdens of this important pathogen."
Report Copyright: Englemed Health News at http://www.internationalmedicalnews.com