STEC – “Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia Coli”
What’s STEC? Floating around various government agency websites and science databases is the abbreviation STEC. Used to describe a specific group of E. coli strands, STEC stands for shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli. Shiga toxin is an extremely poisonous biological substance causing bloody diarrhea and more. A large amount of biosafety research is being done to minimize outbreaks of STECs.
Shiga toxins are one of the most potent bacterial toxins known; according to an article published from Microbiology spectrum, the effects of STEC can cause “bloody diarrhea, hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a condition characterized by thrombocytopenia, hemolytic anemia, and kidney failure”,.
There are other names for these dangerous strands of shiga toxin-producing E. coli. Other names for STEC include verocytotoxin-producing E. coli and enterohemorrhagic E. coli. According to the CDC, these types are most commonly associated with foodborne illnesses from the news.
“[The] consumption of contaminated food, consumption of unpasteurized (raw) milk, consumption of water that has not been disinfected, contact with cattle, or contact with the feces of infected people”4 increase the likelihood of exposure to STEC.
The CDC also provides some valuable information on how to reduce your likelihood of exposure to STEC. Some important ways to reduce risk include the following:
- Washing your hands before handling food and touching animals.
- Fully cooking meat. Beef, ground beef especially, needs to be heated to an internal temperature of 160 °F
- Avoiding the cross contamination of raw meat in the kitchen. A useful technique I use is using a specially designating cooking board and set of utensils for raw meat. It is very important to wash hands extremely well after handling raw meat.
- Always remember to properly sanitize all utensils, cutting boards, and surfaces that have been in contact with raw meat.
 Karmali MA, Steele BT, Petric M, Lim C. Sporadic cases of haemolytic-uraemic syndrome associated with faecal cytotoxin and cytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli in stools. Lancet. 1983;1:619–620.[PubMed]
 O’Brien AO, Lively TA, Chen ME, Rothman SW, Formal SB. Escherichia coli O157:H7 strains associated with haemorrhagic colitis in the United States produce a Shigella dysenteriae 1 (SHIGA) like cytotoxin. Lancet. 1983;1:702. [PubMed]